Mourning Place

I had been on calls all morning, because Monday. And had had CNN on mute, because political junkie much? Wrapping up my last call for the day at about 2ish, I turned my attention back to CNN and could not believe my eyes. Notre Dame on fire.

Notre. Dame. On. Fire.


As many of you likely did, I immediately thought of my first encounter with this magnificent work of art, architecture, place…For me, that was back in 2008, during my first trip to Paris, as part of my three month stint living in Northern Italy. Just as with the first time I saw the Parthenon, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, it was surreal standing in front of a building, a place you had long-studied, long-marveled at, long-longed to see.

cathedral paris.jpeg

It seems that I - we - all have this kind of anthropomorphic love for inanimate places. All day yesterday, my Facebook feed was flooded with people posting their pics of Notre Dame, reminiscing about the first or last time they laid eyes on the medieval marvel. The sense of mourning and loss was no less real, it seems, than how we feel when we lose a loved one. The outpouring of love, support, and concern was palpable internationally, reminiscent of how the world comes together when we lose an icon (of place, no less) like Anthony Bourdain or when a tragedy occurs, like with Charlie Hebdo. At these moments, we are all connected, captivated, coalesced around one common emotion.

So it got me thinking, what does this universal commiseration mean for place? What does this common sense of loss mean for sense of place? For me, as tragic as the destruction of pieces of this world-renowned, beloved cathedral is (I’m so glad the heroic firefighters were able to save it from complete destruction), there is a lot of hope in this loss. It could not be more of a clear indication - evidence, if you will - of how important place is to us all. Place attachment (as it’s called in the “literature) is a real and important phenomenon; but it’s one we seldom pay attention to - or honor - until the place we are attached to is threatened or lost.

Now clearly, in the case of Notre Dame, we all are quite aware of just how much this place means to us all - even those, or especially those, who have not visited it in person. However, what about the quotidien places? The places we interact with daily? The places that perhaps won’t ever capture the national spotlight if they were ever threatened with tragic loss, accidental or intentional? These places are just as important - and in some ways, perhaps more so - than Notre Dame to our everyday lives, to our happiness, to our experience of “beauty,” however we choose to define it. We must adamantantly defend and revere these places as well - and we must call for more of them to enter our lives. I hope that this universal sense of loss about the (thankfully potential) loss of place brings us all a little closer together in our fight for better places, from the mundane to the magnificent.

We at State of Place will continue to fight the good - data-driven - fight to ensure the place giants like Notre Dames and the everyday place “foot soldiers” are valued in every sense of that word and advocate for the yet to be birthed places that are fated to become someone’s favorite, beloved, cherished place in a way not unlike Notre Dame is for us all…

If you want to learn more about how we use data to champion - and help create - everyday amazing places, we’d love to chat or you can delve right in and start imagining the next great place today.

Mariela AlfonzoComment