Complexity and intensity

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The Hotel Newport outside Euro-Disney

Dr. Seuss carrousel at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Piazza in Vicenza, Italy

A complex place is not present all at once as foreground or focal. A simplified place foregrounds its local character. This may make a simple place more immediately intense. The mall and the theme park assert their localness by foregrounding their symbols and archetypes to provide an instantly recognizable experience of locality, but this is quite different from day to day living in a complex place.

Disney's Main Street is more intensely local than the streets it is meant to recall. Disney's version condenses and crowds together typical forms and references that in a real town would be separated by stretches of banal everydayness. Disney so foregrounds the archetypes that the forms and symbols cannot recede and shape lives indirectly. They demand to be focal objects of perception, each for itself. So they cannot interact subtly with each other or with a quieter background. The locale is simplified while it is being made more straightforwardly intense.

A complex intensity is not just a series of simple intensities, though both are experienced through a sequence of temporal episodes. The moments of a complex temporal sequence relate to one another in other ways than sequentially. Such non-linear or non-serial orderings are present within all experiences, but they can be more or less interwoven, more or less self-reflexive, more or less explicit in the ongoing experience of a place.

Complex identities and places take time to develop and require time for their encounter. The place's norms and expectations are interwoven, including multiple trajectories that may be associated with a building's geometry in unexpected ways, and may intersect and interact in ways that require sensitive judgment. The intensities that develop from this kind of complexity are not immediate bursts of experience; they build up slowly and they occupy the center of attention only sporadically but powerfully.