Space and Place


I am becoming more and more interested in space and place.

In this blog I have posted about Hometown Memories, Learning Spaces and the emergence of Canberra Urban Futures.

There are lots of posts too about social ecology including a discussion of Coaches’ Corners.

Last week three programs added to my interest.

Three Programs

Hindsight(17 April) reported on the Northbridge History Project.

The Project has spent the last five years gathering the stories and images of the area, and placing them in an extensive electronic archive that brings to life the experiences of waves of migrants who’ve made Northbridge their home. Sometimes this locality on the other side of the railway line was all they could afford, sometimes it was the first place they saw when they climbed off the train from Fremantle, and sometimes it was the place where they could live alongside people with whom they shared a past, and who spoke the same language.

The Northbridge History Project’s brief is “to capture the history of Northbridge before it is lost and use the history in the revitalisation of the area.”  The Project has a substantial digital archive including oral history some of which was used in the Hindsight program.

Grand Designs repeated its 2009 program on Ben Law’s A Frame house in West Sussex.

It is built almost entirely from the trees in the woods in which it stands. The A-frame is made of trunks, the floor is a wooden platform and there are oak shingles on the roof. It is insulated with recycled newspaper under the floor and barley-straw bales stacked between the frame and the internal studwork. Its walls, covered in lime plaster, are curved in places, where the straw beneath the plaster has been shaped with a chainsaw. The property generates all its electricity (which is then stored in old submarine batteries) from solar panels previously used in the Big Brother house and wind turbines; the taps are fed from a nearby spring.

The third program to catch my ear was Alan Saunders conversation with Graeme Gunn on Radio National’s By Design (20 April). Graeme is the Principal Architect at VicUrban and is the 2011 Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medallist. The announcement of his award noted that:

At a time when we face enormous challenges around the built environment, Graeme Gunn provides an inspirational example of the engaged architect. He has steadfastly pursued his ambition to demonstrate innovative architecture, while at the same time devoting himself to improving the quality of how we live as well as projecting architecture to a broader group of people than would normally afford it.

In his interview with Alan, Graeme discussed his work on the Prahran Market. He noted that “there was open space, protected open space for public use, surrounded by hyperactive and interactive retail use.” He added that “It is a place-making building … I tend to downgrade the buildings and try and work around the space that they supposedly prescribe.”

Space and Place

I luxuriated in the ideas prompted by the three programs. They have added to my interest in space/place relationships triggered of late by thoughts of Dharavi, nomadic behaviour and edgelessness.

I have an opportunity to think about these more next week when I attend a seminar given by Paul Tranter on The speed paradox: transport, time pressure and health.

Paul’s research examines the themes of child-friendly environments, active transport, and healthy and sustainable cities.  He has forged new areas of research by combining hitherto unlinked research topics (e.g. children’s rights and peak oil), or by applying innovative concepts to urban transport studies (e.g. “effective speed”, a concept that considers the total time costs associated with any mode of transport).

I hope to read his book co-authored with Claire Freeman Children and Their Urban Environment (2011) before the seminar.

Photo Credits

Graffiti, Northbrige, Perth

Ben Law

Shopping @market lane

Home Ground, Home Advantage

I have been thinking about home a great deal lately.  In May I wrote about my hometown memories and the experience opened me up to other narratives about home. Three items (see Talking About Home below) have attracted my attention recently just at a time when I am talking with coaches about planning their competition programs. These coaches are involved in ‘home’ and ‘away’ fixtures and we have been discussing what home advantage might mean in performance terms.


There is a fascinating research literature about home advantage. In the last decade there has been discussion of: Association Football (2010, 2009, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2006, 2005a, 2005b, 2004a, 2004b, 2003, 2002a, 2002b), Basketball (2010, 2008a, 2008b, 2007), Netball (2010, 2004), Baseball (2010), Volleyball (2009),  Rugby Union (2008, 2007) American College Football (2006), Australian Rules Football (2005), Rugby League (2005), Skiing (2003), Summer Olympics (2003), Winter Olympics (2001).

There are papers about home disadvantage in tennis (2009) and ice hockey (2007) too.

In a study of professional sports  between 1876 and 2003 (Pollard, 2005), the author notes that:

The highest levels of home advantage for all sports were in their early years of existence. Home advantage in ice hockey, basketball and football in England has declined over the last two decades. In baseball there has been very little change over the last 100 years, with home advantage consistently lower than in other sports. There was a large drop in home advantage in football in England following the 7-year suspension of the league during the Second World War. The trends and changes provide some evidence that travel and familiarity contribute to home advantage, but little in support of crowd effects.

Randall Smith (2003) observes that:

Home teams win over 50% of sporting contests. The sociological appeal of this is the assumption that home advantages are partly the result of the support fans provide, with the collective inspiring teams to performances above normal achievements. Recent changes in professional sports suggest that home support may not be as strong as once expected as structural conditions producing the home advantage have shifted. Distancing of players from fans via free agency and rapid salary escalation, coupled with marketing designed to create national publics, can produce declines in the home advantage. Levels of home advantage have decreased over 20 years, and now, an increase in crowd size reduces the home team’s chances of winning. Teams can still garner support from home crowds, but professional sports are less likely to be representations for local communities; the social bases of the home advantage have been eroded by economic forces and league marketing.

Talking About Home

The three narratives that focused my thoughts about home recently are:

Slumming It

Kevin McLoud’s visit to Dharavi has been screened in Australia in the last month. The program theme is described by Channel 4:

To understand Dharavi, Kevin fully immerses himself in the environment, living and working with the locals, sampling life in the pottery area and discovering the extraordinary sense of spirit and community despite the hardships. He explores this industrious square mile, meeting bakers, cobblers and suitcase manufacturers, all thriving as part of the 15,000 one-room industries contained in this slum. But, despite the area’s apparent successes, Kevin finds Dharavi is to be redeveloped and razed to the ground.

My Fear of Poland

ABC Radio National’s 360 documentary series included a program from one of its own staff members, Natalie Kestecher. This is the description of the program from the Radio National website:

A very personal journey through Poland, from a festival of Jewish culture in Warsaw to a tiny village in the south-east of the country. This is a story about fear and memory, hope and delight. Last year producer Natalie Kestecher visited Poland for the first time. It was a trip that she’d been planning and postponing for years. As the daughter of Polish Jews who’d lost so many family members during the war she had mixed feelings about going there. Natalie’s journey begins in Warsaw where she meets Poles with an interest in Jewish culture and Jews who have only recently ‘come out’ as Jews. She also speaks to the chief Rabbi of Poland. Her ultimate destination, however, is a tiny village in the south-east where her family and other Jews once lived. In this very personal audio essay Natalie tries to make sense of the Jewish absence and encouraging re-emergence in Poland today.

This is a link to the podcast of the program. After listening I did think it was a moving story about fear and memory, hope and delight. It helped me understand some of my feelings about home.

Home Stories

Shortly after hearing Natalie’s program I managed to hear the By Design program about the 2010 Sydney Architecture Festival’s Home Stories event. Home Stories involved “six people sharing their stories of house and home in the grandeur of NSW Government House on the harbour’s edge, complete with champagne and finger sandwiches”.

I was particularly interested in Larissa Behrendt‘s presentation in which  she “described the complex concept of home in contemporary Aboriginal culture, and the way one’s sense of place is connected to one’s sense of home and of self”.  She shared her story her father “removed from his family as a child, discovering and connecting with the places of his family as an adult: sites of birthing, of massacres and of removal, and how he passed this on to his daughter. She argued that the complex emotional architecture of our lives is what creates our home”.

I was fascinated too by Richard Leplastrier‘s discussion of “the words we use: ‘house’ is both a noun and a verb, ‘one’s abode’ is from the verb to abide, to bide time, the place you spend time, ‘dwelling’ a welling up of time like water, the Scandinavian ‘hus’ meaning a husk, or an outer casing for life.  He described home as a place where we belong, where we can be for a long time- and that belongings are where the problem starts”. This profile provides some more information about Richard’s work. I really like that Richard “eschews publicity and his built works are secret treasures to be discovered only by those privileged enough to be introduced to them. His sensitivity to issues of culture and place and his accumulated wisdom in the design and making of architecture is gently revealed though his tutorial sessions in the design studio”.

This is the link to the podcast of the By Design program. Larissa and Richard’s talks are in the podcast.

Home Ground and Home Advantage

The serendipity of contemplating a season’s competition in sport, seeing Kevin McLoud’s programs on Mumbai and listening to Larissa and Richard has been a wonderful opportunity to think about home and the feelings I have for home. I am starting to appreciate the sentiments Larissa expresses about being in and out of country and am transforming my understanding of our spiritual relationships with place and space.

I hope that when I do discuss with coaches and athletes what home ground means for performance I can develop a shared understanding of roots particularly as sport is changing the connections it has with communities.

Photo Credits

Shadow City

Dharavi Warehouse