Monday, May 24, 2010

Physical Forms of a City

While reading 'The Image of the City', by Kevin Lynch. Lynch in Image of a city talks about a concept of Imageabilty of a city, of how an inhabitant would break down the image of his own city into various physical forms. A great reading for everyone i must say. Some excerpts and analysis from the book on Physical forms of a city.

A city can be divided in Paths, Edges, Districts, Nodes and Landmarks to make a physical form. A form that can be converted to images on the city by its own residents. Further on these 5:
1.) Paths: These are channels along which the observer customarily, occasionally or potentially moves. STREETS, WALKWAYS, TRANSIT LINES, CANALS, RAILROADS. For a lot of people these become the predominant elements in their image. People observe the city while moving through it, and along these paths where environmental elements are arranged and related.
a path in Ranwar, essential these are the winding lanes through which the observers(residents) of Ranwar move around their own space.

2.) Edges: These are not paths they are boundaries between two phases. Linear breaks. SHORES, WATEREDGE, RAILROAD, CUTS, EDGES OF DEVELOPMENT, WALLS. They are lateral references rather than co-prdinate axis. They may be barriers, more or less penetrable, which close one region from an other; or they may be seams, lines along which two regions are related and joined. These edges as elements, although probably not as dominant as paths, are for many people organising features, particularly in the role of holding together generalized areas, as in the outline of a city by walls or wall.

the waterfront in Bandra becomes the edge not only for the suburb, but also for all the inner districts.

3.) Districts: These are conceived as two-dimensional extents which has the notion of "inside of", and which are recognizable as having some common, identifying character. Most people structure their city to some extent in this way, with individual differences as to paths or districts are more important. In most case these kind of district are defined by the residents and not the authorities. And even if they are defined by the authorities they are always re-defined by the residents. The Hamlets of Bandra like Ranwar, Shirely, Rajan, Pali etc. become the districts of Bandra, they are combined by various other districts that are marked by the roads like the carter road, waterfield road or tuner road or bazaar road. It is very interesting to notice the transformation of districts while one is traveling through these. actually one would not notice them as they are very resident centric divisions.

4.) Nodes: These are points, the strategic spots in a city into which an observer can enter, and which are the intensive foci to and from which he is travelling. JUNCTIONS, PLACES OF BREAKS IN TRANSPORTATION, CROSSING OR CONVERGENCE OF PATHS, SHIFTS FROM ONE STRUCTURE TO ANOTHER, OR SIMPLY CONCENTRATIONS, STREET HANGOUT, ENCLOSED SQUARE. Some of them become very important to the district. They become symbols, points of interpersonal relationships, meeting points or points of convergence. They are relative to paths, edges, districts and could be these also at times. They are just an unanimously accepted  format of public hangout spots. They are always found in every image.
St. Agna square in Ranwar by the day, used for various purposes by the residents, like in this case to dry chillies which will become some tasty masala after a point. The square is an important node for the residents to meet, chat and play.

by the night sometimes it is used for community mass

5.) Landmarks: They are points of reference, but only external for the observer. They are rather simply defined physical objects, BUILDING, SIGN, JUNCTION, STORE, MOUNTAIN, ART WORK. Is known to single out one such object from a group around them. Interestingly most of the times Landmarks incorporate in public language and becomes a common point of reference. They are of a local/global nature. They are frequently used clues of identity and even structures, and seem to be increasingly relied upon, even at times when the structure ceases to stand there. Once a history, a sign, or a meaning attaches to an object, its value as a landmark rises.

the oratory at the entrance of Ranwar from the Waroda road on the Veronica street is a very used point of reference

All of these are mainly of two natures: 1. Individualistic, 2. Collective. Sometimes both work, sometimes only one does. These leads to cross-refrencing and overlapping of these forms making a very interesting city image. The image of a given physical reality may occasionally shift its type with different circumstances of viewing. Thus and express way may be a path for the driver, but will be an edge for a pedestrian. But the categories seem to have stability for a given observer when he is operating at a given level. 
None of the above mentioned forms exist in isolation in a real case. The city shall cease to exist if they do. Districts are structured with nodes, defined by edges, penetrated by paths and sprinkled with a landmark. Elements regularly overlap and pierce each other.
Also important to understand is that these might change with time or wear a different character. eg: nodes become landmarks, become edges, or become districts with the expansion of limits of a city, but once you break them down to core elements the image of a city becomes clearer.

Element Interrelations:
These elements are simply the raw materials of the environmental image at the city scale. They must be patterned to provide a satisfying form. At this point it gets imperative to understand that these elements which are being studied here with parts rather than wholes are a necessary feature of investigation at the primary stage. After a successful differentiation and understanding of parts, a study can move on to consideration of a total design. And hence again i mention that we cannot look at these in isolation, to the effect that if one element is disturbed in one way or another, the ripples are seen through all the elements.

A large street, with its ambiguous character of both edge and path, may penetrate and thus expose a region to view, while at the same time disrupting it. A landmark feature may be so alien to the character of a district as to dissolve the regional continuity, or it may, on the other hand stand in just the contrast that intensifies that continuity. Districts in particular, which tend to be of a larger format are thus related to various paths, nodes, and landmarks. These other elements not only structure the region internally, they also intensify the identity of the whole by enriching and deepening its character.

The identity of a window may be structured into a pattern of windows, which is the cue for the identification of a building. The buildings themselves are interrelated so as to form an identifiable space, and so on.

All these elements operate together in a context, In the context of the systems, sub-systems of a city which is inhabited by its several inhabitants who have created their own style and image of their own city.

reference: 'The Image of the City', by Kevin Lynch

1 comment:

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