“Aesthetics of Place”: the physical materials, rituals, artefacts and sensorial elements that have the power to communicate the cultural values of the people who live there.

In June 2019 I visited the historic hutongs of central Beijing. Amidst rapid socio-economic change as a result of mass migration to the city and ambitious political strategies for re-generation, the hutongs are a multifaceted and complex social environment. I met with some residents to discuss their opinions on the community’s culture. Despite a rich historic culture, the community was concerned not with what the culture used to be, but instead: What will the “future-culture” be?

How do the spaces we live in communicate our cultural behaviours to ourselves and to others? Could we use “Aesthetics of Place” to find an alternative understanding of the cultural values of these evolving, complex communities? Could we strategically engage aesthetics of place to mitigate social conflicts?