From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In Roman mythology a genius loci was the protective spirit of a place. It was often depicted as a snake. In contemporary usage, "genius loci" usually refers to a location's distinctive atmosphere, or a "spirit of place", rather than necessarily a guardian spirit.
Usage: "Light reveals the roman loci of a place."
Alexander Pope made the Genius Loci an important principle in garden and landscape design with the following lines from Epistle IV, to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington:
- Consult the genius of the place in all;/That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;/Or helps th' ambitious hill the heav'ns to scale,/Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;/Calls in the country, catches opening glades,/Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,/Now breaks, or now directs, th' intending lines;/Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.
Pope's verse laid the foundation for one of the most widely agreed principles of landscape architecture. This is the principle that landscape designs should always be adapted to the context in which they are located.
In the context of Modern architectural theory, genius loci has profound implications for place-making, falling within the philosophical branch of 'phenomenology'. This field of architectural discourse is explored most notably by the theorist Christian Norberg-Schulz in his book, Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture.