Life Takes Place : Phenomenology, Lifeworlds, and Place Making book cover
1st Edition

Life Takes Place
Phenomenology, Lifeworlds, and Place Making

ISBN 9780815380719
Published April 24, 2018 by Routledge
230 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Life Takes Place argues that, even in our mobile, hypermodern world, human life is impossible without place. Seamon asks the question: why does life take place? He draws on examples of specific places and place experiences to understand place more broadly. Advocating for a holistic way of understanding that he calls "synergistic relationality," Seamon defines places as spatial fields that gather, activate, sustain, identify, and interconnect things, human beings, experiences, meanings, and events.

Throughout his phenomenological explication, Seamon recognizes that places are multivalent in their constitution and sophisticated in their dynamics. Drawing on British philosopher J. G. Bennett’s method of progressive approximation, he considers place and place experience in terms of their holistic, dialectical, and processual dimensions. Recognizing that places always change over time, Seamon examines their processual dimension by identifying six generative processes that he labels interaction, identity, release, realization, intensification, and creation.

Drawing on practical examples from architecture, planning, and urban design, he argues that an understanding of these six place processes might contribute to a more rigorous place making that produces robust places and propels vibrant environmental experiences. This book is a significant contribution to the growing research literature in "place and place making studies."

Table of Contents


List of Tables and Figures


Chapter 1. Life Takes Place: An Introduction

Chapter 2. Preliminaries for a Phenomenology of Place: Principles, Concepts, and Method

Chapter 3. Understanding Place Holistically: Analytic vs. Synergistic Relationality

Chapter 4. Explicating Wholeness: Belonging, Progressive Approximation, and Systematics

Chapter 5. The Monad of Place

Chapter 6. The Dyad of Place

Chapter 7. Understanding the Triad: Relationships, Resolutions, and Processes

Chapter 8. Three Place Impulses and Six Place Triads

Chapter 9. The Triad of Place Interaction

Chapter 10. The Triad of Place Identity

Chapter 11. The Triad of Place Release

Chapter 12. The Triad of Place Realization

Chapter 13. The Triad of Place Intensification

Chapter 14. The Triad of Place Creation

Chapter 15. Integrating the Six Place Processes

Chapter 16. Life Takes Place: Criticisms, Concerns, and the Future of Places



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David Seamon is a Professor of Architecture at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, USA. Trained in geography and environment-behavior research, he is interested in a phenomenological approach to place, architecture, and environmental design as place making. His books include A Geography of the Lifeworld (Routledge Revivals Series, 2015). He is on the editorial boards of Environmental Philosophy; Phenomenology & Practice; Journal of Environmental Psychology; and Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. He edits Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology, which in 2014 celebrated twenty-five years of publication.


Seamon’s incorporation of J. G. Bennett’s progressive approximation into a phenomenology of place provides a provocative framework for a more comprehensive approach to complex aspects of place. Seamon deftly argues for the need to focus our attention on the relationality between parts and wholes brought to light through a combination of these two diverse philosophies. The work is an important contribution to place studies furthering our understanding of the significance of place in our lives while encouraging us to see place anew. 

Janet Donohoe, University of West Georgia

David Seamon – place theorist par excellence – presents us with a rich, in-depth, insightful exploration into the complex dimensions of the experience of place as "synergistic relationality." If you read only one book on the phenomenology of place, let this be the one.

Ingrid Leman Stefanovic, Dean, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University

David Seamon’s Life Takes Place respects and celebrates the complexity of place experience, while providing a sophisticated conceptual framework as well as pragmatic tools for ‘reading’ places. It flows out of the tradition of synergistic, holistic, qualitative models for approaching place, and appreciates the wholeness of place -- while also suggesting ways to conceptualize difference, relationality, and change processes in synergistic place studies. Life Takes Place gives architects, geographers, urban planners, psychologists, and ecologist pragmatic tools for understanding places as lived engagements and processes whereby human beings both shape and are shaped by the world of places in which they find themselves. In his unique interdisciplinary style Seamon has given us an engaging, thought-provoking, practical, and inspiring book that will speak to readers from many disciplines.

Eva-Maria Simms, Ph.D., Adrian van Kaam Professor, Psychology Department, Duquesne University

Seamon’s years of substantial engagement with phenomenology of place bear fruit in this books’s clear presentation of difficult theory. Additionally, his numerically based pedagogy of relationality and deft use of telling cases bring to manageable order the bewildering variety of place qualities and processes, as well as the meanings of the diverse experiences they engender.

Robert Mugerauer, Professor and Dean Emeritus, College of Built Environments, University of Washington

Seamon's book is an important addition to the libraries of people who are versed in space syntax and who, more importantly, care deeply about how places are shaped and lived in.

John Hill, A Daily Dose of Architecture Books