Its all about the space…

The point about ‘feeling’ a sense of place is intuitively knowing where your place is and what defines it. Most of the time its about boundaries, event, time, enclosure and views. A great example of this can be seen in the painting. ‘A Courtyard of a House in Delft’. Pieter de Hooch (1658). I use this a lot. Just look at how its implied perspective draws you the view into its world. The painting describes space, which spans from the courtyard (from your point of view) through the entrance hall, onto the street outside, across the canal, the next street and then into the opposite house. The view is terminated by another viewer looking out across the street and canal back to us.

Importantly, that space is shaped and defined by a number of events, which in turn changes the character of that space from private to public. From the courtyard to the street. This is key. Notice the threshold, the figure at the doorway in silhouette marking the transition between public and private.  The core however is the woman and child in the foreground. They are the event around which everything happens. It’s quiet, domestic and intimate. A domestic task but against the backdrop of the city.

In this one place/event is everything you need to know about place making. Places don’t exist unless we inhabit them, and we do this through action in space/event. This is the real stuff. If you are ever stuck trying to describe defensible space…. then this is the painting for you.

You can see the original painting in the National Gallery. Trafalgar Square. I go at least once a year. There is always something new to discover.

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