You are on page 1of 3

KEVIN LYNCH AND URBAN FORM

1. Kevin Lynch, Neo- Empricism and Reaction to Modernism


In 1960s and 70s, as a reaction to destructive impacts of Modernism on American cities and
urban life Kevin Lynch, Jane Jacobs, Christopher Alexander and some others tried to make
the city legible once again. To them this could be done by restoring the social and symbolic
function of the street and other public spaces. They criticized the loss of human dimension on
modern cities. Thus their works derived from the view of city dweller. Among others Lynch
saw the city as text and to “read” it he used scientific inquiry and empirical (see footnotes)
methods. (interviews and questionnaires) Lynch’s way of “reading” the city is followed by
Appleyard, Thiel and some others afterward. (Community participation, advocacy planning,
non-elitists)

Lynch is chiefly concerned with “The Image of the Environment”. He says, “Every citizen has
had long associations with some part of the city, and his image is soaked in memories and
meanings.” He also concerned with how we locate ourselves within the city, how we find our
way around. To know where we are within the city, therefore, we have to build up a workable
image of each part. Each of these images will comprise;
· our recognition of its “individuality or oneness” within the city as a whole,
· our recognition of its spatial or pattern relationships to other parts of the city,
· its practical meaning for each of us (both practical and emotional)

Lynch influenced the field of city planning through his work on the theory of city form, and
studies relating to human perceptions of the city on the perception of the city environment and
its consequences for city design.

Lynch says "Looking at cities can give a special pleasure, however commonplace the sight
may be. Like a piece of architecture, the city is a construction in space, but of a vast
scale, . . . perceived only in the course of long spans of time . . . At every instant, there is
more than the eye can see, more than the ear can hear, a setting or view waiting to be
explored. Nothing is experienced by itself, but always in relation to its surroundings, the
sequences of events leading up to it, the memory of past experiences. . . Every citizen has
had long associations with some part of his city, and his image is soaked in memories and
meanings . . . “

2. Reading Cities: “The Image of The City”


One of the first coherent analyzers of the urban scene in empirical terms is “The Image
of the City” (1960) In “The Image of the City”, Lynch gives an account of a research project,
carried out in three American cities. (Los Angeles, Boston and Jersey City with comparisons
to Florence and Venice) The project resulted in the evolution of the concept of legibility
depending on the people’s 'mental maps'
Before Lynch the concept of legibility have proved invaluable as an analytic and design
tool. The Image of the City helped give rise to a new science of human perception and
behavior in the city. For urban designers, however, it is Lynch's innovative use of graphic
notation to link quite abstract ideas of urban structure with the human perceptual experience
liberating them from the previous strictness of the physical masterplan.

3. Legibility
Legibility is a term used to describe the ease with which people can understand the
layout of a place. By making questionnaire surveys, Lynch defined a method of analyzing
legibility based on five elements: paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks. He defined
these as follows:
Paths: familiar routes followed- (1st Kordon) "are the channels along which the observer
customarily, occasionally, or potentially moves. They may be streets, walkways, transit lines,
canals, railroads .."These are the major and minor routes of circulation that people use to
move out. A city has a network of major routes and a neighborhood network of minor routes.
Districts- areas with perceived internal homogeneity(Kemeralti District) "are medium-to-large
sections of the city, conceived of as having two-dimensional extent, which the observer
mentally enters ‘inside of,’ and which are recognizable as having some common identifying
character" A city is composed of component neighborhoods or districts; (its center, midtown,
its in-town residential areas, organized industrial areas, trainyards, suburbs, college
campuses etc.) Sometime they are districts in form and extent- like Kemeralti District.
Edges- dividing lines between districts- (Izmir Bay) "are the linear elements not used or
considered as paths by the observer. They are boundaries between two phases, linear
breaks in continuity: shores, railroad cuts, edges of development, walls ... " The termination of
a district is its edge. Some districts have no edges at all but gradually taper off (gittikçe
incelen) and blend into (karismak) another district. When two districts are joined at one edge
they form a seam. (dikis yeri)
Landmarks- point of reference- (Clock Tower, Hilton) "are another type of point-reference,
but in this case the observer does not enter within them, they are external. They are usually a
rather simply defined physical object: building, sign, store, or mountain". The prominent visual
features of the city are its landmarks. Some landmarks are very large and seen at great
distances, like Hilton Hotel in Alsancak. Some landmarks are very small (e.g. a tree within an
urban square) and can only be seen close up, like a street clock at Konak Plaza, or Atatürk
Statue on Cumhuriyet Square. Landmarks are an important element of urban form because
they help people to orient themselves in the city and help identify an area.
Nodes- centres of attraction that you can enter<- (Konak Square) "are points, the strategic
spots in a city into which an observer can enter, and which are intensive foci to and from
which he is traveling. They may be primary junctions, places of a break in transportation, a
crossing or convergence of paths, moments of shift from one structure to another. Or the
nodes may be simply concentrations, which gain their importance from being the
condensation of some use or physical character, as a street-corner hangout or an enclosed
square ... " A node is a center of activity. Actually it is a type of landmark but is distinguished
from a landmark by virtue of its active function. Where a landmark is a distinct visual object, a
node is a distinct hub (göbek) of activity.
Having identified these elements Lynch describes the skeletal elements of city form. To
build a broader vocabulary upon this basic framework we must consider other natural and
man-made urban form determinants.
3. What is mental map?
A person's perception of the world is known as a mental map. A mental map is an
individual's own map of their known world. Mental maps of individuals can be investigated
1. by asking for directions to a landmark or other location,
2. by asking someone to draw a sketch map of an area or describe that area,
3. or by asking a person to name as many places as possible in a short period of time.

B. Useful Links and Resources


1. Kevin Lynch, “The Image of the City”, 1960, The MIT Press “The Image of the City:
Stoke On Trent”, at: http://rudi.herts.ac.uk/cs/stoke2/st23.htm
2. G. Broadbent, “Emerging Concepts in Urban Space Design”, 1990, Van Nostrand
Reinhold
3. I. Bentley et al., “Responsive Environments”, 1985, Butterworth- Heinemann Ltd
4. N. Ellin, “Postmodern Urbanism”, 1996, Blackwell
5. Philosophy for Everyone, at: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/2795/phildef.htm