To date, each of the other four senses (smell, sound, taste, and touch) have been considered for how they personify place. In addition, the principles of Feng Shui have been incorporated into the discussion. This final post in the series looks at what is often considered the easiest and most effective way of personifying place, by sight. But, be careful my friends, as looks can be deceiving.
Just as you should not judge a book by its cover or a person by their outward appearance, personifying place just by sight alone is a potentially dangerous and misleading methodology. For example, in the photograph below, what is the place that is personified?
If you said Paris, France, you were exactly wrong! This is a 1/3 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower at Kings Island Amusement Park outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. Granted, it was meant to look like a structure in Paris, but it is not situated in Paris, France. Try this one?
If you responded, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, your were wrong again. This is the Taugus Estuary Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal. Sure, it looks like the Golden Gate Bridge in outward appearance, but they are many thousands of miles apart.
Sight and place are often considered nearly synonymous. But without a context, it could be like playing a game of chance. That is why all five senses, Feng Shui, and context are necessary to comprehensively personify a place.
Beyond the context of the place, there is one other important aspect to keep in mind – one view cannot encapsulate the spirit of an entire place. For example, where would you guess this street scene is located?
Would you believe it is a neighborhood in Detroit? Well, it is. Too often human perceptions are influenced by outside forces, whether they be the media, friends, word of mouth, or personal beliefs. With so many years of bad press, few if any people outside of Michigan realize there remain neighborhoods within the physical boundaries of Detroit that are lovely.
There is no doubt that visual images are the most important factor in personifying place. But, visual references should not be used as sole criteria. The other four senses, Feng Shui, and the context of what you are observing must be a part of a complete analysis.
As urban planners, it is imperative that will explore all of them. Otherwise, we are only scratching the surface and not providing a comprehensive study.