Title page for ETD etd-05072007-161545

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Beidler, Kyle Joseph
URN etd-05072007-161545
Title Sense of Place and New Urbanism: Towards a Holistic Understanding of Place and Form
Degree PhD
Department Environmental Design and Planning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Miller, Patrick A. Committee Chair
Bork, Dean R. Committee Member
Koebel, Charles Theodore Committee Member
Zahm, Diane L. Committee Member
  • community design
  • new urbanism
  • sense of place
Date of Defense 2007-05-04
Availability unrestricted
New Urbanism is an all-encompassing term that refers to an increasingly popular set of design tenets that draw upon traditional urban forms in the creation or redevelopment of residential communities. Although design professionals are increasingly adopting these design tenets in the creation of new communities, there is no research that either supports or rejects New Urbanism’s underlying assumption that neotraditional design tenets are capable of fostering a “sense of place.” Therefore, this research explores how a “sense of place” arises for residents of a neotraditional neighborhood located in Blacksburg, Virginia. This research then investigates the influence physical form has on the development of a sense of place for the individuals living within this community.

In an attempt to answer these questions, this research project employs an existential-phenomenological approach to understand the specified people-place relationships. The transformation of space into place for the participants living within the study area was consistent with two distinct, existing theories regarding the development of a sense of place. Analysis indicates that social interaction in the form of un-structured chance encounters with neighbors heavily influences the transformation of mere space into place. Further analysis indicates that such encounters are not directly related to density. Rather, the proximity of the housing, the connection between the public and private realm, and the relationship of the housing to the un-built environment all emerge as key factors in encouraging such residential experiences. The results are discussed in the context of TND design tenets and a theory of neighborhood design is presented.

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