Every day we learn from the world around us. Whether we are absorbing simple life lessons—the stove is hot—or more complex and sinister notions like prejudice and racism, our environment shapes many aspects of who we are. Both the physical and social aspects of human society have become intertwined, each affecting the other like two celestial bodies caught in an orbiting dance. We shape our world by living in it, as much as we are shaped by the world created by previous generations. The overlap of these two concepts of culture and environment exists in the theory of place. Assuming one of the foundational ways of learning is from our environment, the study of place allows for a more in-depth look at the world we have created both socially and physically, on both local and global scales.

To the designer, the study of place can offer many facets of information about space, people, culture, and values. When we design place, or for place, we are designing culture, social interaction, traditions, memories, and physical space. Through the practice of design and study, designers learn from the many lessons that they encounter. Applying the methodology of these lessons may help achieve a more inclusive and “authentic” design practice.

© Michael Rosenberg