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[from Dwelling, Place and Environment: Toward a Phenomenology of Person and World, David Seamon & Robert Mugerauer, eds. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing, 2000; originally published by Kluwer, 1985]


Dwelling, Place and Environment:

Editors' Introduction To The 2000 Edition


David Seamon, triad@ksu.edu

Robert Mugerauer, drbobm@washington.edu


When the first edition of Dwelling, Place and Environment was published in 1985, phenomenological research on environmental and architectural issues was in its infancy. Already, scholars working independently from each other had laid conceptual foundations for understanding how environments, places, and buildings might have bearing on human identity, wholeness, and life. One thinks, for example, of the work of philosophers Martin Heidegger (1962, 1971) and Gaston Bachelard (1969),  phenomenologist of religion Mircea Eliade (1961), architect Christian Norberg-Schulz (1971, 1980), and geographers Yi-Fu Tuan (Tuan, 1974, 1977), Anne Buttimer (1974, 1976), and Edward Relph (1970, 1976). For all these scholars, a more or less central concern was exploring how qualities of nature, place, and architecture contribute to human experience, particularly in a positive, sustaining way.


As editors of Dwelling, Place and Environment, our major aim was to illustrate, in one volume, the great variety of ways in which a phenomenological perspective could contribute fresh insights to environmental and architectural concerns. Intentionally, we sought contributors from a wide range of disciplines and professions, including architecture, urban design, philosophy, geography, psychology, music, physics, and religious studies. We also desired a broad spectrum of topics, thus the seventeen contributors explored themes that ranged from blind persons’ environmental experiences to traditional groups’ sense of place to environmental design as place making.


In reviews of the book, this eclecticism of topics and contributors was sometimes voiced as a criticism. Perhaps this assessment was correct in that the many themes discussed—for example, the soundscape or the nature of home and dwelling—could each become the focus of its own extended phenomenology. On the other hand, supportive reviewers of the volume lauded this eclecticism because it demonstrated the cohesive conceptual power of the phenomenological approach. These reviewers praised the collection for illustrating the innovative and unusual perspectives that an existential and experiential thrust could contribute to traditional issues like environmental ethics, the aims of architecture, or the nature of the person-environment relationship,


In the fifteen years since Dwelling, Place and Environment first appeared, it has been heralded as one important beginning for an interdisciplinary, multi-professional sphere of research and practice that has variously been called “phenomenological ecology,” “phenomenological geography,” or “environmental and architectural phenomenology.” Though this new introduction is not the place to present recent contributions to this work, we want to assure new readers that the approach is alive and flourishing—the works of  Alexander (1987, 1993; Alexander, Ishikawa, and Silverstein, 1977), Casey (1993, 1997), Norberg-Schulz (1985, 1996), Paalasma (1996), Stefanovic (2000), and Thiis-Evensen (1987, 1999) are some of the most powerful examples. Those readers wishing a review of this and related work, should consult Mugerauer (1993,1994) and Seamon (1993, 2000). Since 1990, there has also been published the Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology Newsletter, which can be contacted at: http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~triad.


It is gratifying to find that our new publisher recognizes and supports what our readers and colleagues have demonstrated in publications, conference presentations and correspondence since this volume was first published: that there is a steady interest in phenomenology as a holistic way to interpret the person-world relationship, including the existential links with nature, landscapes, buildings, and places. In this sense, we are heartened that Dwelling, Place and Environment continues to play a role in helping students, colleagues, and friends to identify each other, to gather together, and to refine a method and point of view—especially when we otherwise might feel ourselves to be “odd persons out” in the face of either a still-not-dead positivism that too often reduces the world to a piecemeal imitation, or a cynical post-structuralism that makes all meaning relativist and temporary.


As with the natural and built environments—despite our ignoring and harming them—what is heartfelt in our work still has the power to bid mystery to come forth. We hope that the ideas presented here will continue to widen in significance and contribute to new ways whereby the natural and built worlds may nurture and be nurtured.



Alexander, Christopher, 1987. A New Theory of Urban Design. New York: Oxford University Press.

______, 1993. A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art: The Color and Geometry of Very Early Turkish Carpets. New York: Oxford University Press.

______, Ishikawa, Sara, and Silverstein, Murray, 1977. A Pattern Language. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bachelard, Gaston, 1969. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon.

Buttimer, Anne, 1974. Values in Geography. Commission on College Geography Resource Paper No. 24. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Geographers.

______, 1976. Grasping the Dynamism of Lifeworld, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 66, 277-92.

Casey, Edward, 1993. Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

_____, 1997. The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Eliade, Mircea, 1961. The Sacred and the Profane. New York: Harcourt.

Heidegger, Martin, 1962. Being and Time. New York: Harper & Row.

______, 1971. Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper & Row.

Mugerauer, Robert, 1993. Interpretations on Behalf of Place: Environmental Displacements and Alternative Responses. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.

______, 1994. Interpreting Environments: Tradition, Deconstruction, Hermeneutics. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Norberg-Schulz, Christian, 1971. Existence, Space, and Architecture. New York: Praeger.

______, 1980. Genius Loci: Toward a Phenomenology of Nature. New York: Rizzoli.

______, 1985. The Concept of Dwelling. New York: Rizzoli.

______, 1996. Nightlands: Nordic Building. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Pallasmaa, Juhani, 1996. The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. London: Academy Editions.

Relph, Edward, 1970. An Inquiry into the Relations between Phenomenology and Geography, Canadian Geographer, 14, 193-201.

______, 1976. Place and Placelessness. London: Pion.

Seamon, David (Ed.), 1993. Dwelling, Seeing, and Designing: Toward a Phenomenological Ecology. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.

______, 2000. A Way of Seeing People and Place: Phenomenology in Environment-Behavior Research. In S. Wapner, J. Demick, T. Yamamoto, and H. Minami (Eds.), Theoretical Perspectives in Environment-Behavior Research. New York: Plenum.

Stefanovic, Ingrid Leman, 2000. Saving Our Common Future: Toward a Phenomenology of Sustainability. Albany,New York: State University of New York Press.

Thiis-Evensen, Thomas, 1987. Archetypes in Architecture. Oslo: Norwegian University Press.

______, 1999. Archetypes of the City. Oslo: Norwegian University Press.

Tuan, Yi-Fu, 1974. Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perceptions, Attitudes, and Values. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

______, 1977. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


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