I recently  joined an architecture studio on a field trip to Appalachia. Through hours of car rides, buildings, communities and fields framed by the window, I noticed that these towns in the middle of nowhere had a greater sense of “Place” than perhaps larger cities.

The people are connected to the land,  family and a distinct culture, even if it is in relative poverty.

Below are three landscape photographs I took on the trip:

horizon horizon1 horizon2


4 thoughts on “Appalachia

  1. Let me ask you a question. From your travels “in the middle of nowhere” in the midst of “relative poverty,” what “sense of place” were you able to pick up on in “Appalachia?” How could you pick up on someone else’s sense of place for somewhere you just looked at out the window?

    • You are right, it isn’t possible to fully know a place during one visit, let alone sitting in a car. We did of course get out of the car and explore the towns during the travels. From what I experienced through talking to people who lived in these communities was that they were deeply connected to where they lived. They are rooted to the land, to each other as a multiple generations living in the same area, and as a community. It is often the case (not that it is a problem) that people move a lot and aren’t able to fully become part of a community. A generalization, but Maryville, TN has become an in-between place…an area for suburban sprawl, shopping malls surrounded by parking, somewhere where professionals have houses, but drive out of town to work. On weekends they drive to Knoxville. In other words, it slowly became a place to drive through and temporarily inhabit, not a place for roots.

      I think we are able to understand a place and someone else’s sense of place by immersing yourself in their culture. If it is strong enough, you can feel it, even if it is a brief visit.

      I apologize if the wording is vague. “Place” is still to me a complex concept and difficult to put into words.

      • hey Richard, I agree with what you’re saying. I think that “sense of place” is something that we have a very concrete, embodied experience of. However, It is hard to articulate it with words and concepts, but you can sort of emotionally sense it when you venture into different places.

        Please forgive me if I sounded like a jerk the way I asked you a question about your post. I was looking around in the blogosphere at how people construct certain representations of Appalachian (a very general term in itself 🙂 culture, and I think I might have accidentally taken some of that bad energy onto you. I apologize.

        I really like your pictures, by the way.
        Red Bandana

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