Architecture and its influences on our daily life form the premise of the study. Every
space has a character which is defined by the type of human engagement it solicits.
Spaces have varying characters and the suitability of their use depends on whether they
are experienced as enchanting or disenchanting. Hermeneutic phenomenology, which
emphasise the importance of context when the experience of a phenomenon is
considered, guides the investigation. Since the 1970’s various architects have absorbed
the hermeneutic phenomenology into their writings and work. Those referred to during
the course of this paper include Christian Norberg-Schultz, Steven Holl, Peter Zumthor,
Ziona Strelitz, Nabeel Hamdi and Juhani Pallasmaa.
Christian Norberg-Schultz translated hermeneutic phenomenology into architecture in
his theory defining the Sense of Place. This theory delineates that there are two spatial
qualities influencing the experience of an environment, namely, ‘space’ and ‘character’.
These qualities are interdependent and are therefore explored independently prior to
their exploration as a singular whole.
An interdependent eco-system defining the relationship between the Context, User and
Built Fabric is proposed within this paper. Observation and in-depth knowledge in all
three areas is required for the creation of enchanted environments. If this system falls out
of equilibrium, disenchanted environments develop. Enchanting environments engage their users and benefit the community and individuals alike. Disenchanted environments
do not support their users, rendering their experience of architecture sombre and austere.
The necessity of experiencing the world as a place, and not as a space, is a central theme
throughout the paper.
This paper was informed by the master’s thesis: An exploration of office design: Understanding the
character of our workplaces, by Sunica de Klerk and co-authors: Catherine Karusseit and Elana van der
Wath, completed at the University of Pretoria in 2013. (http://hdl.handle.net/2263/32806)