1. A particular position, point, or area in space; a location.
    1. A particular area on a larger surface.
    2. A building or area used for a specified purpose or activity.
    3. (Informal) A person's home.
  2. A portion of space designated for, available to, or being used by someone.

Place often implies something other than space. Whereas space is generally considered as general, abstract, geometric or generic, a place conventionally refers to something distinct – a specific and meaningful location. Intuitively we understand that for a location to be imbued with acquired meaning, it needs to be defined in space or time, for instance through clear physical boundaries which distinguish it from surrounding locations, or by (more or less) tangible historical traces that connect it with past events. This enables people to develop subjective and emotional attachments – a particular sense of place. In Yi-Fu Tuan’s humanistic geography, a place is not merely a location, but always a ‘small world’ unto itself. “L’Etoile is a place, but the Champs-Elysées is not: one is a node, the other is a thoroughfare. A street corner is a place, but the street itself is not.” (Tuan, 1977). This understanding is essentially linked to usage, rather than to an a priori definition. In addition to this rather conventional, intuitive, approach, places can also be considered from a number of more theoretical perspectives. Phenomenological, social-constructionist or network approaches, for instance. In phenomenological terms, a place is an inhabited, embodied and experienced space that hosts certain practices and routines played out by individuals or groups. Social-constructionist approaches point out that places are never fixed, rather, they are always a (temporary) result of the plans and actions of protagonists who have the power to favour the interests of some groups over those of other groups (processes of inclusion and exclusion). Places that are socially constructed, in turn structure social behaviour, for instance, city plazas that enable people to meet one another, or shopping malls that seduce one to consume. The network attitude toward places, highlights the connected nature of locations – places acquire meaning and importance primarily because they are nodes in a network. At Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE), places are approached from all of the perspectives mentioned above, depending on the issues at hand. What is vital is that, in both our design curriculum and our design research projects, places are considered as multifaceted, multiform sites whose meaning is never neutral, but instead, continually debated. This means that places need to be contextualised, and that in both physical and in socio-cultural analyses, power relations are taken into account.

DAE examples

  • Jonas Ersland, Public waiters, Graduation project Man and Food, 2017

  • Sonja de Boer, Sense of belonging, Graduation project Master of Information Design, 2016

  • Hannah Hiecke, The Wandering Hole, Graduation project Master of Information Design, 2015


  • Augé, M. (1995). Non-Place: Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity (translated by John Howe). London: Verso.
  • Cresswell, T. (2004). Place: an introduction. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Heynen, H. (2013). Space as receptor, instrument or stage: Notes on the interaction between spatial and social constellations. In: International planning studies, 18(3-4): 342-357.
  • Tuan, Y. (1977). Space and place. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Low, S. & Lawrence-Zúñiga, D. (2003). Locating culture. In: S. Low & D. Lawrence-Zúñiga (Eds.). The anthropology of space and place: Locating culture (pp. 1-47). Malden: Blackwell.
  • Relph, E. (1976). Place and placelessness. London: Pion.
  • Sorkin, M. (Ed.). (1992). Variations on a theme park. New York: Noonday.