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How does a city shape the identity of an individual?

By Gvantsa Kvirikashvili

Is our identity formed by where we live? Many of us consider the place we live an integral part of us. It may be a small group – a village or a few streets in a city – but it is still viewed as ‘our place'. Our ties to a place are shaped by a mix of a variety of elements, such as shared war and peace narratives, architecture, iconic landscapes and structures, and political representation imagery, among other things. The same applies to local identities, as well as national ones.

We collectively establish the character of our local area as we form it through changes and social activities. Cities are the central narrator of the complex journey and the spirit that it has brought to us today, attesting to the amazing heritage of the past, the preservation of which relies on the application of recent new technologies. Because of the evolving society culture over time and as an expression of historical accumulation, the city continues to exist, bearing the traces of each era.

People's identities are the stories they tell about who they are, what they share with someone like them, and how they see the world.

The formation of identities that would be attached to a specific city is a long process. Geographical characteristics, cultural level, architectural character, tradition and customs, and lifestyle all from the way we view the city. From the standpoint of cities and architectural products, the identity term encompasses a broad meaning that includes natural, geographical, and cultural products, as well as social life norms. Although these elements help to identify the city, depending on the time each period brings the city a different element. Since urban identity is characterized not only by physical and natural elements but also by urban life, social interaction plays an important role in its development.

Although people's relationship to place is pragmatic in many respects, it can also have a form of an emotional connection. Some places have strong emotional attachments that affect people's attitudes and behaviors. Engaging with a place's identification, whether it's its physical features or its social background, can make people feel more grounded and at home.

A Winston Churchill quote says: ‘We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us’.

The point here can be made to the architecture that defines the city. Buildings that have been a witness to the city's history are put in a privileged position as part of city life. As a result, buildings with architectural characteristics from the city's construction period play an important role in keeping the city's cultural continuity, shaping its identity, and passing it on to future generations. The architectural works as symbols contribute to the unique identity we attach to cities. Each period's architectural values alternately embody national identities and serve as essential components of city identity. From the standpoint of expressing identity, these ideals are the elements individuals attach themselves to.

However, the driving factors in identifying a sense of place may be community connection. Since cities are constantly in transformation, to anchor ourselves and build a comfortable type of place connection, we search out stories and markers of identity which in turn contributes to a sense of self-identity.

In recent years, we have frequently encountered the issue of cities entering a new architectural and urban creation phase thus losing their original identities. In the process of a transformation, in those communities, feelings of not belonging to the city might arise. As a result, preserving the historical-cultural heritage, local originalities, and city cultures of that city becomes more challenging. However, the impact of unplanned and disorganized city growth is the destruction of historical fabric, harming the urban identity of the city. As a result, cities that have similar identities are created rather than cities with distinct, unique identities. While becoming more and more similar in time with modern, same style building technologies, local originalities are slowly being eliminated. In that sense, people's perceptions of their identity may reflect their perspectives on how the world is changing and whether they feel recognized and included in that world. The question is what effect will this have on the regeneration of places and communities?

As places change, engaging with memories from a wide range of communities will help embed a sense of place identity. The social and cultural construction of place layers the meanings. These principles, however, are constantly adapted due to modernisation and unsuitable regeneration of places and global pictures. This type of situation may prompt the detachment from the places that are devoid of meanings or, on the contrary, create more attachment to the unique sense of the community.


  • Esra Yaldız et al. (2014). Loss Of City Identities In The Process Of Change: The City Of Konya-Turkey - Social and Behavioral Sciences 140 221 – 233

  • Rifaioglu, Mert & Şahin Güçhan, Neriman. (2007). The Concept of Identity and Its Identification Process in Urban Conservation Projects.

  • John Denham. (2018) Country, city, town: how different types of community influence English and British identities. LSE


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