Four of Buchan’s creatives comment on what defines a sense of place and how we, as designers, create it
Andre Jones, principal (Perth)
I have always been interested in making – pictures, photographs and furniture. My desire and joy is to articulate stories and translate them to form. I make experiences, or as a designer it’s known as ‘placemaking’.
Put simply, it’s about placing people first. Today’s making involves an exploration of working within complex networks. It’s crucial to relate the language of placemaking, sometimes referred to as a ‘quality without a name’ or our ability to instinctively sense what makes a good place, into reality.
Robert McFarlane, principal (Auckland)
My work around the world has given me a keen understanding of the human condition and how it relates to the making of architectural places. Living, working, embracing and connecting with cultures, their characteristics, customs and language is key in responding to the ‘genius loci’. For example, the geometric and spiritual forces defining Feng Shui in Asia or the wide ethnicity, ideological beliefs and hot and dry climate in the Middle East.
Whether it be the realisation of a private home, hotel or resort, civic cultural or transportation project, the type of building informs the creative process and provides an appropriate sense of place. This affirms the value of developing a relationship with the local people, supported by a fusion of fresh ideas. As an architect, these successful design collaborations are some of the most remarkable experiences I have had in my life.
Anthony Palamara, managing principal (Sydney)
What does a sense of place mean? Maybe, we just need to avoid placelessness or a lack of place — that is, the creation of inauthentic architecture that does not consider people. Rather, a sense of place is about making places and spaces for people — that is the job of architects and designers. That is what we should excel at!
Today, informed clients understand how great design can generate a ‘sense of place’ and how people experience and interact with the built fabric of our cities.
Grant Withers, principal (Melbourne)
You might say that it’s black art when it comes to contriving new ‘places’ as opposed to those existing, character-filled places that have become our favourite places. We all respond differently to the sensory triggers manifested in a ‘place’ — climate, scale, built form, texture, colour, sound, smell, other people, activity and more.
One of the most valuable inputs we can have as designers of successful places is to gain as much intelligence of the user group, the community, as possible — a demographic profile of the people who will, hopefully, engage positively with a place and contribute to its success. We use this information to create stories or scenarios of our users engaging with our designs to help craft the very best design outcome.