How a cafe or restaurant is experienced is different from how the cafe is largely discussed in the media, that is, as an objectified physical setting. The distinction between physical settings and architectural experience was explored through an investigation of dining environments located in Paris and in an inner suburb in Brisbane, Australia. It was noted that the previous discussions of social and cultural practices had given little consideration to the influence of the environment on interpretation. Instead, the dining environment was discussed as a site for action, or as a three dimensional sculpture removed from habitation, and represented in design magazines through photographs which were usually devoid of people. Even fewer journals included the built environment (in an architectural sense) in the discussion of social acts. The environmental situation was often simply discussed as objects in a setting. Little attention had been given to the inherent potency of space, and the way in which objects and people influence and construct a sense of place. Everyday practices involve both the setting—or the sculptural space—and the activity or practice. In this study, the dining experience was shown to come into existence through the combination of these aspects—neither being able to represent the experience alone. The interior volume was not understood as emptiness filled with things but, rather, as a dynamic part of being-in-place. The space, when understood in this way, cannot exist without the person and vice versa. As a consequence, questions of identity and discrimination were raised, and examples of the role of the built environment in our interpretation of ‘the other’ were revealed
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