Interest in place and local meaning is universal. The discipline of the study site is geography. Geographers study place from two main perspectives: place as place, a unit in a hierarchy of spatial units; and placement as a unique artifact. So, on the one hand, we have a growing literature on the theory of the “heartland”, and on the other hand, there is also a small number of works devoted to depicting the unique characteristics of various places, mainly towns. Renowned geographer Yi-Fu Tuan explores how people feel and think about space, how they form attachments to family, neighborhood, and country, and how feelings about space and place are shaped by a sense of time.

Book in Focus Space and Place by Yi-Fu Tuan
Memory, Nostalgia and the Politics of Space and Place_©(no name). 2019. Memory, Nostalgia and the Politics of Space and Place.

For Tuan Yi Fu, experience is defined as “all how man perceives and constructs reality”, from non-literary cultures, from ancient and modern Chinese and Western civilizations, from fiction, poetry, anthropology, psychology and theology. The result is a remarkable synthesis that nicely reflects the subtleties of experience while avoiding the pitfalls of arbitrary categorization and easy generalization. For these reasons, and its general tone, erudition, and humanism, this book is sure to endure when current scholarly interest in environmental experience wanes.

Spaces and places are fundamental components of the living world; we take them for granted. However, when we think about them, they can take on unexpected meanings and ask questions we hadn’t thought about.

Places are centres of perceived value, fulfilling biological needs such as that food, water, rest, and fertility.

What starts as undifferentiated space becomes a place when we understand it better and give it value.

Space | Yi-Fu Tuan

“Space” is more abstract than “place”.

Tuan argues that space is not a single thing, but can be viewed as multiple mental structures that all depend on the interaction between the human body and its environment. Because he discusses what space is and how to approach it.


Image 2_ 6 Examples of What makes a Great Public Space_© (no name). (2016). 6 Examples of What makes a Great Public Space. [Photograph]

The first critique of space was followed by a critique of the notion of place in geography. According to Tuan, the concept is not strictly a location, but beyond. In English and several other languages, places carry a sense of place and social status.

The authors also deny linking the concept of a place to any particular scale: a place is any location that has social and geographic significance. Places are not defined by scale, size or shape. It can be a chair, crib, area, or the globe itself, as the case may be.

For most people in the modern world, places lie in the middle range of experience. Within this range, places are made up of elements such as unique smells, textures and visual qualities in the environment, seasonal changes in temperature and colour, how they look when approached from the highway, their location in a school atlas or roadmap, etc. and additional indirect knowledge such as the number and variety of population or industries. Thus, places in the middle range can be known either directly through the senses or indirectly through the mind. A small; place can be learned 

through all modes of experience; a large place, such as a city or a country, relies more on indirect and abstract knowledge for experience-building.

Space, Place and Time | Yi-Fu Tuan

Image 3_Placemaking: A concept that calls for a place-based GIS representation_© (no name). 2018. Placemaking: A concept that calls for a place-based GIS representation. [Photograph]

The notion of location, the spatial relationship between phenomena, the interaction between people and place, and the time-varying relationships implied by these three simple but profound questions remain at the heart of our themes.

Despite its complexity and multidimensionality, modern geography still receives crucial attention, and in the words of the authors of one of the most successful texts of the 1970s — Abler, Adams, and Gould (1977) Spatial Organization — “where are things ” and “Why things are where they are”. Furthermore, it remains about human use and relationship to the habitable planet, and the ways in which humans are affected and altered by the environment during long-term habitation.

The external manifestations of these engagements lie in the spatial arrangement of the Earth and human activities within it, the specific expressions of these in various places, regions and territories, and the history in which these relationships are still unfolding: in short, with space, place and time.


Space is abstract. It lacks content; it is a broad, open, empty, reverie, full of substance and illusion; it is a possibility and conjures the future. By contrast, the place is past and present, stability and achievement. A major consequence of the ecological movement and the energy crisis is the realization that space is no longer an appropriate image of our crowded Earth.

In order to keep a place, it has to be inhabited. It’s a cliché unless we check what “inhabited” means. To live in a place is to experience it, to be aware of it with the bones and the mind. Place, from armchair to country, is a construction of experience; it is supported not only by wood, concrete and roads but also by the quality of human consciousness.

These conceptual discussions show the impact of humanist critiques on geography and space science: from an abstract effort, Duan proposes a model that puts the fact that every knowledge is bound by the knowledgeable person himself at the centre of the debate. Human geography has not lost interest in cartography, but it no longer sees it as an end: it asks about attribution, representation, imagination, sign, and many elements not included in the methods of spatial analysis.

Citation: Yi-Fu Tuan

1) Space and place (2011) University of Minnesota Press.

2) Tuan, Y.-F. (2001) Space and place: The perspective of experience. Minneapolis, MN: University of   Minnesota Press.


4) Im, Y. (2015) “Yi Fu Tuan Space and place.” 

5) “Key Texts in Human Geography” (2012) in, pp. 53–60.

6) Mahoudeau, A. (no date) The human measure of space: review of “Space and Place: Humanistic  Perspective”, by Yi-Fu Tuan, The Cobble And The Frame.

Image Citation: 

  1.  Image 1_ Memory, Nostalgia and the Politics of Space and Place_ ©(no name). 2019. Memory, Nostalgia and the Politics of Space and Place. [Photograph]
  2. Image 2_ 6 Examples of What makes a Great Public Space_ ©(no name). (2016). 6 Examples of What makes a Great Public Space. [Photograph]
  3. Image 3_Placemaking: A concept that calls for a place-based GIS representation_© (no name). 2018. Placemaking: A concept that calls for a place-based GIS representation. [Photograph]

Akshita Gahlaut is an architect based in Delhi who strongly believes in the ability of the architecture and research combined with design thinking. She is an avid learner who has a penchant for understanding different fields within the architecture and aspires to promote sustainable development.