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Reading 3 "Genius Loci" by Christian Norberg-Schulz

Key Words:


There exist two independent but mutually dependent aspects of human being’s
ability to truly dwell in a place: ORIENTATION and IDENTIFICATION. When a
person dwells in a place, he/she is simultaneously located in space and
exposed to a certain “environmental character,? asserts Norberg-Schulz.
Orientation refers to the requirement in a place for spatial structure and
organization. “The world may be organized around a set of focal points, or
be broken into named regions,? he writes. Man must have a sense of security
in understanding how a place is organized in order to truly dwell in a
particular place and not be lost. It is the familiarity with the nouns
defining a place. Identification refers to “becoming ‘friends’ with a
particular environmental character." The objects of identification are
concrete environmental properties, developed typically during childhood. It
is the familiarity with adjectives definitive of a place. Essentially, it
is the possession of a feeling of belonging in a particular place.

Discussion Questions:

1)Norberg-Schulz asserts on page 23 that “The basic act of architecture is
therefore to understand the ‘vocation’ of the place.? What does this mean
for us as students of architecture, and how has this basic act been central
to the profession historically?

2)Norberg-Schulz claims that architecture has to a high extent lost contact
with the concrete life world, neglecting the unique character of a place in
favor of the creation of character motifs that transpose characters from
one place to another. (page 15) Do you agree with his analysis? Are there
examples of this neglect in modern architecture?