When ‘space’ becomes ‘place’ |3| Dirk van Eck

Dirk Van Eck

Dirk Van Eck

Short recall of 2 previous posts: People who have ‘made’ a space a place are generally referred to as ‘insiders’. They know the place and its people and are known by the other insiders of that place. Becoming an insider is a time-consuming process and the spouses who’ve been here for less than a year, or only just a few months, are therefore no such insiders. They are ‘outsiders’. The term ‘outsider’ seems to have a negative connotation, affiliated with ‘stranger’, ‘foreigner’ or ‘intruder’, but in my previous blogpost I explained that being an outsider can actually be quite comforting, because it takes away some of the pressure of having to integrate norms, values and social conventions. Importantly, this comfort, called ‘at-easeness’, is a crucial threshold that needs to be attained in order to feel at home in a new place.

The feel of places and their effect on feeling at home

IMG_6366As the previous blogpost already hinted at, there are more of such thresholds that influence the emotional attachment one experiences towards a location. Most of these take a long time of familiarisation to attain, but there is one that the spouses easily distinguish: ‘warmth’. Warm places engender an intimate and nurturing mood, whilst cold places feel distant and unfriendly. Logically, it takes much less effort to feel at home in a warm place than it does in a cold place.

Perhaps the best example hereof that Eindhoven has to offer is Strijp-S. Those who’ve joined the Strijp-S tour at the end of February will know that the city district doesn’t appear to be the most inviting place exteriorly. It looks industrial and IMG_7315abandoned. A cold zone for business, not for recreation. Asked to describe how wandering through Strijp-S feels like, one of the spouses says: “it’s a strange sensation, because it’s like you are the only one there. It’s just buildings with broken windows – so awkward.” It turns out that inside those graffitied greyish walls, warm creative places are hidden, but without the Get in Touch Strijp-S tour, not even I would’ve guessed that those former Philips buildings concealed a few treasures.

IMG_7601Another place the spouses visited on one of the Get in Touch trips was an bucolic agrarian grocer in the Genneper Parken [Genneper Parks]. Unlike Strijp-S, the little grocer is immediately described as hospitable and cosy. All spouses buy at least something to take home or hand out amongst the others. They unanimously decided that they are indeed standing in a lovely, warm place.

Total experience through all the senses help familiarise

So why does Strijp-S seem so cold and the agrarian grocer so warm? Let’s see what our good friend Yi-Fu Tuan has to say about this: “A place,” he remarks, “achieves concrete reality when our experience of it is total, that is, through all the senses.”

IMG_7604In stark contrast to Strijp-S, the agrarian grocer features a jazzy panorama of organic colours and textures. The vegetables, meats and dairies are lavishly showcased, stimulating our eyes.They saturate the shop with a rich aroma of untreated spices, filling our noses. The appetising stroopwafels [syrup waffles] Seda paid for are soon jointly lunched in the middle of the already cramped shop, tickling our tastebuds. Because “all the senses” are used to experience the agrarian grocer, it’s easier familiarised than Strijp-S is.The spouses not only acquaint the view, but also the smell, the taste and the feel of the place. A much warmer experience.

Get in Touch and the will to explore an unfamiliar environment

Get in Touch helps the spouses (and me) to find the warm places in Eindhoven: the obvious ones, the ones that are hidden and the ones that nobody would suspect to be so pleasant, if it wasn’t for the sociable company in which those places are visited. This last remark relates to a term that was coined in the previous two blogposts, namely ‘openness’ – the will to explore an unfamiliar environment.

IMG_7618Get in Touch makes openness an accessible attitude, even for the shiest individuals, because finding new places is much simpler together with others like yourself.

Come and hear more ..

If you’d like to hear more about how Get in Touch helps space to become place, be sure to come to the meeting this Friday, where I will present the results of my three months Master thesis research.