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Space and Place the Perspective of Experience Yi-Fu Tuan 2007

Muzna al Zadjali

Queensland College of art

Interior design 2

Yi-Fu, the author of this article, is a Chinese-American geographer who holds a B.A and M.A from University of Oxford. Yi-Fu was born on December 5, 1930 in Tientsin, China. Yi-Fu is well known for creating the field of human geography and absorbing it with philosophy, art, psychology and religion. He is also famous for his definitions of space and place.

In the second chapter of Space and Place the Perspective of Experience, Yi-Fu Tuan discusses the “Experiential Perspective”. The chapter discusses how the experiential perspective is shaped through the senses of a human being. Initially discussing some of the triggers that are involved when experiences are created and how triggers could be created and initiated. In order to create a trigger for the memory, some part of the experiences or values should be available at various locations. For instance, the designer could generate things, such as a color or an object, that the people have experienced, which would create a memory associated with that particular object. Once the designer has the information, then he/she can place objects, colors, odors, or any other thing, which will trigger the different feelings and notions in the personnel. This could work positively for the designer if he/she is able to trigger the right memories. However, the current experience would add to the perception of the people’s previous experience and create another memory in their minds. Note that these triggers should be dealing with all of the senses, not just one particular sense; there should be triggers for touch, smell, taste, sounds, and sight.

This is possible through the careful usage of all our five senses and shaping the reality according to the spatial context which is formed. You plan to be able to attain the sensory feelings from all the different aspects from which it is possible. Moreover, the different senses will help you in forming an experience that can easily be recalled and thoroughly explained to others. The eyes will have you in remembering the sight of the object or place, the amount of light which was at display, the colors used, the material used, and all of the other objects or details which the object or place contained. The sense of smell will help you in recognizing the odor of the object or place, whether it was pleasing, in case of the aroma of the place was thick, thin, delicate, light, etc. The sense of touch will be helpful in feeling the place, the details of the object, the texture, hard or soft, rough or smooth, dry or moist, sharp or round.

Besides what have been pointed out, the sense of touchcan also be exampled when describing the weather as humid; the skin feels the moistness and hence we realize the humidity in the air. The skin will feel sticky in this kind of weather; the experience of such weather helps us in realizing the humidity in the air. The next sense is hearing, the sound can serve in creating a sense of space and size. In the case of an object, one could knock the object against something to get a sense of the sound, which the objects give off. The last of the senses is taste, this might not be as helpful in identifying the place as others but it will give the sharpness or the flatness of the taste, which is experienced, at a certain place or with a certain object.

Yi-Fu addressed two perspectives of knowing a place, one from a resident point of view, and the other from the tourist point of view. Yi-Fu explains these as “Long residence enables us to know place intimately, yet its image may lack sharpness unless we can see it from the outside and reflect upon our experience. Alternatively another place may want the weight of veracity because we know it only comes from the outside through the eyes of tourist and from reading about it in the guidebook”.Nevertheless, the question is whether both of these can exist in the mind of a person at one time? Initially one would believe that a place could not achieve this feeling intimacy and familiarity from a tourist view, as it lacks the actual experience.

Yu-Fi discussed the importance of senses and the manner in which they contribute to our experience. I tend to believe it would be impartial to discuss how a sense-impaired person would be dealt with in the scenario of a restaurant setting. The aim is to provide a way in which they would be able to feel the atmosphere and environment of a restaurant just as any other individual.

Sensory deprivation implies that an individual is lacking one or more of the senses. In this case, the senses, which are working on this particular individual, seem to augment in their functionality. Blind people have a far greater sense of smell, touch, and hearing. This sense is developed more because of their limitations (blindness), these other senses develop the sense of space and distance in order to compensate for the inability to see. As Yi-Fu, mentions in the reading, blind people develop an acute sensitivity to sounds, and I believe that is not just the case with sounds but rather with all their other senses because they are required in order to fulfill the gap, which is creating, by not being able to see.

In order to enrich a dining experience for the blind or visually impaired persons, I would recommend several things. For the blind, there should be a strong smell in the restaurant, a pleasant odor of course, which one would expect in an elegant restaurant. It would also be necessary to provide them with food, which is rich in smell, so the person can sense the type of food, which is brought to them before tasting it. The furniture should be of elegance as the blind person shall be able to feel the detail if they touch it, this could also be with the texture and material which is used in the chairs (e.g. the cushions). I think another aspect, which would entice the blind, would be a pleasant voice, which would take their order, so the waiters and managers should be very polite and pleasant in their language as to give off a good feel to the customer. The silverware in the restaurant and all of the objects used should be of a good material and rather detailed, as the feel of the objects are the only indication to the blind of the quality of this specific material. The food itself should be full of texture, taste, and smell. The sense of taste and smell of these personnel is far greater than an ordinary person is, thus it would be preeminent to offer them with the best-textured food because their concentration would be focused on the food itself rather than looking around or even looking at food.

Comparatively the work of YI-Fu is similar to thoughts presented by the author in the book entitled Walking in the City. In Chapter VII of Walking in the City, De Certeau (1984) indicated the importance of senses in design of the Manhattan World Trade Center. The author clearly describes the building from the perspective of various senses. According to the De Certeau (1984), the gigantic mass was immobilized before the eyes. In other words, the enormous building was transformed into a texturology of coinciding extremes of today’s urban eruptions that block out space and yesterday’s buildings, brutal oppositions of styles and races, and extremes of degradation and ambition. Ideally, the De Certeau posits that designers who created that building applied their senses to collect information in their environment, and then incorporated all the ideas in creation of the building. Just like Yu-Fu, the author presents the fundamentality of senses in a designers work. The two authors realize that designer’s work is an interpretation of the real life. In other words, designers identify imperative characteristics in their environment, together with problems faced in real life situations, and then try to create structures that are based on all the considerations. Designers simply apply their senses to produce unique structures that can be able to provide for the prerequisites of clients of the construction industry.

The author in Walking in the City compares the structures that were created in the past with those of the modern society (De Certeau, 1984). The aim of the author was to make the reader realize how things had been transformed, thanks to designers who understand that the society is continuously changing, and therefore new structures need to accommodate emerging needs. In explanation, Yi-Fu also revealed how all of the senses help in the shaping and enriching the spatial and geometric character of the world. The two authors seem to reiterate the usefulness of human senses in a designer’s life.


In conclusion, Yi-Fu has revealed how all of the senses help in the shaping and enriching the spatial and geometric character of the world. He summarizes the chapter by mentioning that an object achieves reality when the experience of it is total, with all the senses as well as the active and reflective mind. Similarly, the author of Walking in the City also stressed the need for application of senses in a designer’s work. From both readings, I have learnt that senses play a vital role in enhancing the quality of a designer’s work. High quality work from a designer is obtained by integrating various elements from the environment with the help of all the senses. In other words, the work of designers are a reflection of the environment, which comprises of the needs of the consumers, environmental changes, government regulations, safety requirements, and industrial best practices. In future, I would like to apply the strategies that the two authors tried to put across. In other words, I would apply my senses in every respect to ensure that I understand my environment and re-align my efforts towards producing laudable structures.


De Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of everyday life: Chapter VII Walking in the City. Berkeley: University of California.

Tuan, Y. F. (1977). Place and Space: The perspective of experience. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press.