Place is a human interpretation of space; it augments the latter with information related to human activities, services, emotions and so forth. Searching for places rather than traditional space-based search represents significant challenges. The most prevalent method of addressing place-related queries is based on placenames but has limited potential due to the vagueness of natural language and its tendency to lead to ambiguous interpretations. In previous work we proposed a system-oriented formalization of place that goes beyond placenames by introducing composition patterns of place. In this study, we introduce flexibility into these patterns in terms of what is necessarily or possibly included when describing the spatial composition of a place and propose a novel automated process of extracting these patterns relying on both theoretical and empirical knowledge. The proposed methodology is exemplified through the use case of locating all the shopping areas within London, UK.