The central objective of the Tranquille project is to explore the lived experience of place. We share with many others an interest in meaning, but a notion of meaning that is not restricted to narrowly linguistic or cognitive senses. In this regard, it would be accurate to say that we want to explore the interface of meaning and experience, and to show how meaning is grounded in human physicality and emotionality. The philosophical inspiration for the research is the phenomenological tradition, though we rely more on Merleau-Ponty than Heidegger. It is widely recognized that Merleau-Ponty owed an “enormous debt” to Heidegger. They shared a common interest in the links between self and world and both sought “to reverse the ontological priorities of Cartesian rationalism”. But in contrast to Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty explored in considerable detail the crucial role of human embodiment and its relation to “being in the world.” Merleau-Ponty’s view of the importance of embodiment is expressed in the quotation cited above, where he speaks of knowing the world through the body, and there is a sense in which our analysis starts from this idea of embodied knowledge. We see it as a key element of place-making and of the processes through which places become remarkable to those who inhabit them.
Before providing a more detailed account of our research, we note that the forms of embodied knowledge discussed by Merleau-Ponty have both practical and aesthetic value. They enable and inform new ways of appreciating the sensual properties of the world. For the naturalists, who were one of the many groups in our study, the source of aesthetic pleasure is an edge place, an undeveloped area located next to a small city. While the naturalists do not reside in this place, they inhabit it, as Merleau-Ponty might say. Their capacity to appreciate its extraordinary qualities has been cultivated and refined over time. This may not be dwelling in a fully Heideggerian sense: it does not presuppose an idealized rural setting. But it reminds us that development in its many forms entails both a loss of certain kinds of place and a loss of the sensibilities grounded in a deep knowledge of place. Understanding and honouring these sensibilities is a basic goal of this research.
via Imaging Place:.