11. THE GENIUS LOCI
The Genius Loci is the pervading spirit of place. They always said: “whoso hurries unduly will never catch the genius loci of those regions…….”. Peter Ackroyd wrote (2001) that: “there is such a thing as the genius loci… and it is possible that certain districts actively modify the behaviour of people who live in them”. At Richard Reid and Associates we believe developing an understanding of the distinctive building character and culture of a particular context is a key part of our design thinking. It was the same for Lethaby and others awarded the Pugin Studentships as they went out into the regions, pen and pencil in hand, to discover the vernacular buildings and the local materials and uses that gave them shape and form. In 1885, William Morris wrote in protest that “What speciality has Oxford if it is not the genius loci which our modern dons are doing their best to destroy”.
Defining the spirit of a place is the most difficult thing of all, but it is a crucial issue to be addressed if we are to create buildings with the particular and distinctive character of which such places abound.