A shared archive hosted by Rastko Novakovic, which will be mobilised in a series of short movies. You are invited to explore and contribute.

‘Space and Place’ 1

excerpts from ‘Space Place’: The Perspective of Experience’ by Yi-Fu Tuan, University of Minnesota Press, 2002 (1977)


Place is a type of object. Places and objects define space, giving it geometric personality. Neither the newborn infant nor the man who gains sight after a lifetime of blindness can immediately recognize a geometric shape such as a triangle. The triangle is at first “space,” a blurred image. Rozognizing the triangle requires the prior identification of corners – that is, places. A neighbourhood is at first a confusion of images to the new resident; it is blurred space “out there.” Learning to know the neighbourhood requires the identification of significant localities, such as street corners and architectural landmarks within the neighbourhood space. Objects and places are centres of value. They attract or repel in finely shaded degrees. To attend to them even momentarily is to acknowledge their reality and value. The infant’s world lacks permanent objects, being dominated by fleeting impressions. How do impressions, given to us through the senses, acquire the stability of objects and places?

Intelligence is manifest in different types of achievement. One is the ability to recognize and feel deply about the paricular. In distinction to the schematic worlds in which animals live, the schematic worlds of humans are also richly populated with particular and enduring things. The particular things we value may be given names: a tea set is Wedgewood and a chair is Chippendale. People have proper names. They are particular things and they may well be the first permanent objects in the infant’s world of unstable impressions. An object such as a valued crystal glass is recognized by its unique shape, decorative design, and ring when lightly tapped. A city such as San Francisco is recognized by its unique setting, topography, skyline odors, and street noises. An object or place achieves concrete reality when our experience of it is total, that is, through all the senses as well as with the active and reflective mind. Long residence enables us to know a place intimately, yet its image may lack sharpness unless we can also see it from the outside and reflect upon our experience. Another place may lack the weight of reality because we know it only from the outside – through the eyes as tourists, and from reading about it in a guidebook. It is a characteristic of the symbol-making human species that its members can become passionately attached to places of enormous size, such as a nation-state, of which they can have only limited direct experience.

p 18


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