Developing Practical Guidelines for Sense of Place Using Visual Simulations: A Case Study at Pier 21
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Sense of place is important because it enhances the user experience in a setting, promotes well maintained public places and encourages public participation in planning. In addition, sense of place has recently been recognized for its significance in ecosystem and resource management. Unfortunately, due to lack of a clear definition and disorganization in the literature, the significance of sense of place has not translated well from theory to practice. This research narrows the gap between theory and practice in place-making by distilling common place-making principles from the literature to develop a set of clear, practical guidelines for place-making. Using Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, these principles (and the techniques that fulfill them) were incorporated into twenty ‘what-if’ visual simulations. Using a multi-sort technique, combined with open-ended interviews, these simulations were used to evoke participant responses to the principles and techniques distilled from the literature. Generally, it was found that sense of place is enhanced with the addition of these principles/techniques, but five unexpected ‘key findings’ were also discovered – there is a hierarchy amongst the principles; there is a hierarchy amongst the techniques; significant techniques are lacking in the literature; the principles/techniques need not be exhausted; and, with familiarity, mystery becomes meaning. Practically, it is demonstrated that the guidelines developed through this research are capable of providing solutions to issues recognized in current Canadian design guidelines. Academically, this research presents an initial exploratory study in bridging the gap between theory and practice in place-making. A number of opportunities are recognized to further test the principles/techniques distilled in this research.