When space is defined geographically and culturally it is coupled to the idea of people having 'a sense of place'. The term sense of place means different things to different people. To some, it is a distinctive visual characteristic that some geographic spaces have and some do not, while to others it is an emotional feeling or perception held about a space by individuals and groups. Both uses involve adopting a set of characteristics that make a space special or unique and promote authentic human attachment and belonging.

Spaces said to have a strong "sense of place" have an outstanding identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors. But it is primarily a social phenomenon dependent on human engagement for its existence. Such a feeling may be derived from the natural environment, when the focus is on landscape, but is more often derived from a mix of natural and cultural features, and generally includes the people who occupy the space. In these connotations, strong pastoralist and anti urbanist philosophies have produced modes of codification aimed at protecting, preserving and enhancing spaces with anti-industrialist and anti modernist values, such as the "World Heritage Site" international designations, the English "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" and the American "National Historic Landmark" designation.

Two important concepts are imaginary 'time in space' and imaginary 'space in time'. These two overlapping emotional perspectives became the driving force of 19th century British art. Imaginary 'time in space' is exemplified by the Pre-Raphaelites, who were particularly fascinated by medieval culture, believing it to possess a spiritual and creative integrity that had been lost in later eras. 'Space in time' was employed by the painter Walter Langley, and others like him, to dramatise fields and quays with peasants and fisherfolk, to glorify the imagined joys and tragedies of simple village life. This was the period after 1880, when the rediscovery of national identity and native traditions prevailed throughout the western world. Pictures of space in time were painted for urbanites as nostalgic reassurances of the continuity of less comfortable traditional ways of living. For the most part this picture-making was an incessant production system where standards were consistently maintained but there were no high flyers. In all cases, a lexicon of historical continuities was amplified and the visual disjunctions were filled in with painterly imagination. The pictures also served to add character to out of the way spaces that were beginning to serve an embryo tourist industry.

Cultural features may create a sense of place in a space that has no outstanding visual quality. Then the feeling of attachment may be strongly enhanced by the space being written about by poets, novelists and historians, or portrayed in art or music. Here it is the power of human imagination projected onto a space that makes it special. This serves to add scenic power to even the most prosaic landscape elements.

Example pictures

'Time in space ' William Holman Hunt: 'A converted British family sheltering a Christian missionary from persecution by the Druids' (1950)

'Space in time' Walter Langley 'Never morning wore to evening, but some heart did break'.