Places allow the construction of imagined communities. When people share a space, they become a part of the body of people who do likewise; often people they do not know, have never met, may never have seen. But the common experience of place serves to create a unity through identity.
It is an understanding based on representation: it cannot be confirmed. But the belief in the existence of the community is enough to let it be.
Places allow imagined communities to be extended in time. They present physical evidence of the presence of people in the past, of shared customs and paths and choices and places.
The endurance of a city, and consistency of environment, is important to the comfort of people in its physical demonstration of continuity and security, for the traces of the past carried forth. The stability and depth of the cultural landscape allows a corresponding stability and depth of identity.
‘In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corner of their houses, white or black or grey or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.
From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.’
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities