Affective Atmospheres, Essence of Architecture, and Spirit of Place

Affective Atmospheres, Essence of Architecture, and Spirit of Place

Hisham Abusaada (Housing and Building National Research Center, Egypt) and Abeer Elshater (Ain Shams University, Egypt)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3856-2.ch003
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


This chapter reviews the implications of using the words “essences” and “spirit” in urban studies and their link with the concept of affective atmospheres in the realms of architecture. Two assumptions are valid when this matter is addressed. The first is that, despite affective atmospheres being considered as the fifth dimension in architecture, they are not their essence or spirit. The second is that these atmospheres impersonate a crucial role in reconstructing different urban environments, which are based on the perceptual dimension. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an informed view bibliographically and conceptually about distinguishing between essence, spirit, and affective atmospheres. The chapter also provides an analysis of the concept of affective atmospheres to verify the hypothesis. The conclusion is latent in the possibility that the expression “affective atmospheres,” instead of “essence” or “spirit,” can be used for referring to people's emotional impressions in urban environments as a fifth dimension.
Chapter Preview


All cities in the world are built on the same structural elements of buildings, open spaces, gardens, roads, and streets, together for people. Nevertheless, each city has an entirely different impression in its outdoor places, even though some cities in the world lack these impressions. In everything that God created and in some of what man has done throughout history, everywhere in an urban environment, people who visit some places for the first time always feel hidden or explicit things that suddenly impact on them (Ash, 2013; Thrift, 2004). For instance, if a person crosses a place for the first time, whether intentionally or unintentionally, he/she will feel a sudden sensory reaction. Sometimes, the atmosphere affects them with complacency and acceptance; on the contrary, it causes them to have a mood 1 disorder and change their attitudes (Abusaada & Elshater, 2020).

In this regard, Dewey (2008) expressed his total overwhelming impression, which would not only affect his body, but also arouse passion and change his mood. This immediate response describes an emotional moment that occurs slowly or quickly, violently or quietly, but it must happen, and no matter how different the human samples. Indeed, the authors refer to people’s age, gender, educational, social, and cultural status, as well as economic level, in addition to the differences in human nature. An emotional shock is always instantaneous and occurs when the senses receive the influences of the natural or human-made elements that exist in a place. These effects vary among taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound. Besides, the results of all these immediate impacts that excite emotions create effects on a person anywhere.

According to some researchers, this change in people’s impressions has presumably occurred as a result of multiple characteristics in the spirit of a place; some theorists have called it a spirit of a place (Jackson, 1994; Norberg-Schulz, 1980; Relph, 1976). In another context, Gandhi (2017) called these effects–from an urban geography perspective–an urban atmosphere. From a metaphorical perspective, Anderson (2009) coined the term affective atmospheres. These researchers, along with other researchers, see the emotional influences of a person or place that make that hidden spirit active (Anderson, 2009; Ferreira, 2018; Norberg-Schulz, 1980; Terranova & Tromble, 2016). Moreover, many commentators linked the words of essence and spirit to understand precisely the atmospheres of the urban environments (Jackson, 1994; Norberg-Schulz, 1971, 1980).

Therefore, this problem is synonymous with the classical problem of using terms such as essence, spirit of place or affective atmospheres as an indication of people’s changing impressions toward a place. This issue can be defined as the problem of estimating the validity of referring to affective atmospheres as the essence or spirit of architecture. However, doubts remain on reliability of such study, due to the difficulties of naming affective atmospheres as the fifth dimension (Abusaada & Elshater, 2018). Is this the same situation as when somebody sees time or intuition as a fourth or sixth dimension, respectively?

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: