Sense of Place and New Urbanism: Towards a Holistic Understanding of Place & Form
Kyle Beidler, Ph.D.
Room 131 Blake Hall
Co-Hosted By: Department of Human Ecology and Department of Landscape Architecture
Abstract: New Urbanism is an all-encompassing term that refers to an increasingly popular set of design tenets that draw upon traditional urban forms in the creation or redevelopment of residential communities. Although design professionals are increasingly adopting these design tenets in the creation of new communities, there is no research that either supports or rejects New Urbanism's underlying assumption that neotraditional design tenets are capable of fostering a "sense of place." This assumption is essentially a normative claim that presumes the principles of the New Urbanism can have a measurably positive effect on sense of place (Kelbaugh 2002; Congress for the New Urbanism 2000).
This research project employs an existential-phenomenological approach to understand two specific people-place relationships. The project first explores how a "sense of place" arises for residents of a neotraditional neighborhood located in Blacksburg, Virginia. The methodology then investigates the influence of physical form in the development of a sense of place.
Analysis indicates that social interaction in the form of un-structured chance encounters with neighbors heavily influences the transformation of mere space into place. Further analysis indicates that such encounters are not directly related to density. Rather, the spatial quality, the
relationship between the built and un-built environment and the design of the public/private realm emerge as key factors in encouraging such residential experiences. The results are discussed in the context of the New Urbanism design tenets.