“The ability of places to catalyze the imagination” – Jane’s Walks, summed up

Amidst the absurd embarrassment of riches online, I stumbled yesterday on this article on the wonderful website www.nextcity.org (if you don’t read it, you should), and the first paragraphs encapsulated for me what the global Jane’s Walk adventure is all about. See what you think:

“According to research done by Jeremy Wells, a scholar in the field of historic preservation, the mind travels quickly when we encounter a historic property. He came to this conclusion after interviewing 11 residents in the Charleston area about how their neighborhoods made them feel. One of Wells interviewees described glimpsing a historic home and imagining a Civil War soldier marching up its staircase.

Ultimately, attachment to historic places—at least in a residential context as revealed in this study—is associated with the ability of places to catalyze the imagination through fantasies about hypothetical pasts or spontaneous fantasy.”

It seems to me that this conclusion is as valid in an historic downtown commercial district as in a residential or industrial area, or in a small town. These environments have the ability to catalyze the imagination in an infinite variety of ways, just the way Proust’s famous madeleine did.

In a world where there’s so much discussion of the importance of creativity, the catalytic value of the awareness of neighborhood – of sense of place – really shouldn’t be underestimated.

Try to think about what happens in your head the next time you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood … perhaps it will make you think about leading a Jane’s Walk there!

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