This paper develops a critique of Christian Norberg-Schulz’s idea of genius loci, particularly its reliance on the philosophy of phenomenology that searches for the ontological essence of a given place. It argues that the phenomenological tradition in which the ontological view of a given place is to be inscribed in architectural forms adequately disentangles architecture and its changing context, and actually formulates a normative guideline, imposing uniformity on architecture without taking evolutionary historical conditions into account.By drawing on poststructuralism, this paper rails against any conception of “naturalness” to reveal the constitutive mechanism of power/knowledge networks that have an effect on our perception of things as natural or ontological, and to approve the inability to grasp an unchangeable totality or ontological essence of a thing. Moving from the phenomenological conception of place to a constructive one, I mainly take Doreen Massey’s various thoughts concerning “nature,” “space” and “place” as the guiding threads for my argument here. Massey’s argument disputes Heideggerian views of place in relation to “being” and suggests that the sense of place is a social product and that therefore there is no static ontological nature of a given place. In application, I shall point out the problems of the phenomenological perspective of viewing place as natural, permanent, and therefore prior to other mechanisms those also construct cultural identity and dominate architectural form.
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