Planning the campus with place in mind: a phenomenological exploration of the lifeworlds of community college campuses in British Columbia




Domae, Lisa

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This phenomenological study contributes to scholarship on the geographies of higher education by examining the importance of “place” for the design and planning of college campuses. In particular, the study explores the lifeworlds of two community college campuses in British Columbia, Canada, comparing the “sense of place” at an urban campus in the lower mainland of British Columbia with a rural campus on Vancouver Island. In contrast to conventional treatments of the campus as absolute space, this dissertation considers how higher education campuses serve as places of meaning to those who use them. Using a combination of natural walk-along interviews and mental mapping methods with 23 participants, the findings from this study support Seamon’s (2013) contention that places – in this case, college campuses – are interanimations of people and their physical environments where meanings and a sense of place are created through the practices of daily routines. Participant responses also suggest that a sense of belonging to community, with its concomitant academic benefits, is advanced by encouraging a feeling of “at-homeness” on campus. These findings put into question the reliance of conventional campus design and planning approaches on the visual impact of the built environment to create a sense of place. Instead, building from Gehl (2011), they highlight how design and planning efforts that support the gathering of people and their routine use of campus spaces can foster the “place-ballets” that make vibrant and distinctive places. In generating spontaneous interpersonal encounters, place-ballet also sets the conditions understood to support the creation of new knowledge. To advance the notion of place-ballet, the study concludes by offering the neighbourhood as a model for campus design and planning that both connects home to community and encourages citizen engagement.



campus, planning, community college, phenomenology, place, sense of place