Local identity in material culture as part of wellbeing and social sustainability
To bring local identity into material culture – into the design of buildings, interiors and products – is a part of socio-cultural well-being and social sustainability. In the contemporary era of globalisation and unification in material culture, it is very important to maintain and apply elements and concepts that are special and unique for single localities and regions. Cultural identity and tradition are inseparable parts of every society and can influence the character of a local built-environment and its elements. This “DNA” of society indirectly affects the typology/morphology and semiotics of crafted products and architecture, and it creates the basics of the design language of a country or region. Local identity can be understood as the essence of a cultural heritage and genius loci and plays a very important part in self-identification. This is unfortunately very often misinterpreted in the design of contemporary building or products. Although there exist many research studies in the field of ethnography, cultural anthropology, history and archaeology, they are very rarely available and understandable for architects, designers, investors, producers and services providers directly in the regions. Preserving local identity is also a big challenge for local industry and eco-tourism. The last part of the study is questioning the ways of working with “the known” and shows some examples from Europe and Slovakia.
After an evaluation of the relation between regional identity and wellbeing, we have set four main issues dealing with local identity as reflected in material culture that contribute to the well-being of users during all kind of interactions with built environment, and these are: attachment to place –building a self- and social group identity; comfort from interaction with “the known” – shared cultural values and signs, archetypes, and stereotypes; authentic experience and satisfaction through one’s own hands-on experience and interaction with handcrafted objects. Together with the phenomena of local self identity, they are explored further on in the paper. The paper also shows the first results of the project - IDENTITY.SK – a common platform of design, architecture and the social sciences in the form of regional concepts for products and services, coming from interdisciplinary literature and field research and storytelling.
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