Week 1: Place Attachment and the Potential Transformative Implications of Water

Apr 01, 2021

Large fountain at Dubai Airport (3)


During my research this week, I came across a presentation by human performance researcher Adam Fraser describing a transformative zone between work and home termed the “Third Space”. In the linked video, Dr. Fraser describes the results of his research investigating how taking time to mentally rest and reflect between distinct tasks can improve a person’s self-rated performance in each individual task. This video caught my attention because the physical environments people inhabit while transitioning between work and home, such as subway stations or bus terminals, are the kinds of transition spaces being studied in my research. This realization was a jumping off point for further investigation of how liminal spaces can become sites of purification, serving as environments for people to mentally reset between distinct location-based tasks. Rather than simply being an intermediary between destinations, a transportation facility may have the potential to be a place where travelers can mentally reflect, rest and reset. By attaching such additional psychological significance to transition spaces, this might also help restore “sense of place”: the creation of a distinct physical environment that facilitates a meditative mental state could work against liminal disorientation caused by a person’s perception of being between two spaces rather than within one. As described by Dr. Fraser, this “Third Space” has the potential to be a unique phase of mental recuperation and transition, but which kinds of architectural elements could help establish this kind of meditative environment?

Typical scene during a New Yorker’s commute home from work (1)


I began looking in my textbook, “Environmental Psychology” by Linda Steg et. al for answers. While the chapter containing aesthetic appraisals of architecture from the standpoint of environmental psychology largely discussed exterior, rather than interior architecture, I was introduced to the concept of “place attachment”, which is the idea that individuals form emotional bonds with specific physical environments over time. As discussed in the chapter, both perception of environmental stimuli and personal understanding of a particular space influence the way place attachments are formed. For example, if a person worked in a particular office building during a high point in their career, it follows that they will have positive memories of that space, improving the way they perceive that environment.

As I continued to read, I began to consider how mental associations between specific aspects of a physical environment and memories can contribute to the way a space is understood. A person’s memory of cultural symbols and associations could play a role in the way a person understands their environment, so I began to research how different cultures represent purification, tranquility and recuperation. Could transportation architecture feature a symbolic representation of the meditative state of mind described in Fraser’s “Third Space”? Interestingly, I found a book by archeologist Terje Oestigaard which discusses connections between water and concepts of rebirth and transformation across ancient cultures.

The Leshan Giant Buddha by a river in Sichuan, China (2)


While reading chapters from this book, I am excited to see if water could be understood as a symbol for the psychological process described in Fraser’s “Third Space” – after all, rivers play a major role in Buddhist philosophy as a metaphor for the ever-changing of the universe, which can be tapped into during meditation and other states of tranquility. Christian denominations discuss the purifying powers of holy water, with lakes and other bodies of water serving as the historical sites of baptisms. Could a transportation facility feature water as an architectural element, establishing an association between the physical environment and concepts of mental recuperation or healthy transformation?

Works Cited:

  • Oestigaard, Terje. Water: Histories, Cultures, Ecologies (2006)
  • Steg, Linda, et al. Environmental Psychology. Hoboken, NJ-United States, United States, Wiley, 2012.
  • Adam Fraser. “Dr Adam Fraser Explains The Third Space.” YouTube, uploaded by Adam Fraser, 10 July 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=dpk_dssZXqs&t=6s.

Images Cited:

  • 1) “34th Street – Herald Square.” Wikipedia, 13 Apr. 2020, sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/34th_Street_%E2%80%93_Herald_Square.
  • 2) “Leshan Giant Buddha.” Wikipedia, 1 Mar. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leshan_Giant_Buddha.
  • 3) “This Huge Waterwall Water Feature in Dubai Airport Attracts Attention with a Light and Jet Display. | Water Walls, Water Feature Lighting, Water Features.” Pinterest, 2021, www.pinterest.com/pin/468867011178439208.




2 Replies to “Week 1: Place Attachment and the Potential Transformative Implications of Water”

  1. Elizabeth C. says:

    I’m curious to see how the concept of the “third place” informs the rest of your research. Also, your multidisciplinary approach is fascinating and really enjoyable to read about. Again, your use of media is wonderful and really adds to your post.

  2. Asha W. says:

    This is such great work, Jacob! I’m so glad you included the video because it really helped to draw your key points together. Your application of the “Third Space” to physical environments is fascinating. I’m excited to see what else you discover!

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