This paper discusses the relevance of historical studies to the ways that architects and architecture students approach the issue of interpretation and representation of "Other". It examines how an architect's "placement" informs the construction and reproduction of architectural knowledge. Adopting a flexible historical framework the paper explores three selected cases of cultural encounters between architects and the historic precinct of Baščaršija, the Ottoman established core of the city of Sarajevo. With the objective of gaining a historically grounded awareness of the complexities of cultural identities the paper considers: (1) The design studio teachings of the well-known Slovenian architect and academic Jože Plečnik who advocated the study of historic architecture as an essential part of an architect's education. (2) The attempts by Plečnik's student and colleague Dušan Grabrijan to open up the terms of engagement with history and allow for a more fluent interpretation of what constituted an understanding of place and its history by introducing the ideas of space, volume and culture. (3) The positions taken by the two architects are finally considered in their relationship to the understanding of the cultural and historical context of Baščaršija presented by the third and fourth year architecture students at UNSW, Sydney Australia in their design of the Town Hall building in Sarajevo. The students' physical and cultural distance from the specifics of the site led to the simultaneous promotion and contestation of the relevance of the historic studies and context analysis.