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The Importance of Sense of Place in our Communities

April 13, 2020 by admin
Economic Development, Land Use, Rural Planning, Urban Planning

Studying landscape architecture and being a practicing planner has ruined me for the kind of travel that is enjoyed by the great unwashed. That building over there? Don’t you love the flying buttresses, the use of positive and negative space, the sublime use of proportion, scale, and massing? My, what a lovely streetscape! It has all the elements that make it truly walkable. The plaza? EXCUSE ME! The piazza? What a wonderful sense of enclosure. And don’t you love the way it hits all of the elements identified in Holly Whyte’s “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”?

Like many of you, I have had the great opportunity to visit many of the major cities (and a fair number of the minor ones) in the United States, as well as a good share of the great cities of Europe. Since my study of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at Utah State University, I have found that my experiences have been enhanced by a better understanding of urban design and landscape architecture—those things that we all refer to as “sense of place.” Strolling through Central Park in New York City is always a joy, but if one understands its history and the role of Fredrick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux in its creation, the miracle of its existence comes into sharper focus.

We work in a profession that allows us to understand the built environment in ways that the general public does not. We know the potential of the built environment to contribute to the quality of life in our communities, their social and cultural values, and their economic success. I believe in the importance of a sense of place, and that physical places matter much more than virtual spaces. Communities that understand this will be the thriving communities of the future.

*Written by APA Utah Contributor Paul Larsen (AICP, MSARP), Community and Economic Development Director for Brigham City, Utah – PLarsen@bcutah.org