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kevin lynch

kevin lynch

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Kevin Lynch

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BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS AND THEORETICAL CONTEXT

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Like many of America's leading urbanists, Kevin Andrew Lynch had close links w i t h Chicago - the crucible of urban studies - although his associations concerned his childhood rather than professional career. Born i n 1918 as the third and youngest child of a family of Irish descent, he grew up i n an ethnicallymixed and modestly affluent area on the city's north side. Educated first by private tutors and then at the neighbourhood Catholic primary school, Kevin followed his two brothers to Francis W. Parker a secular high school w i t h a progressive curriculum that encouraged students to think about the world around them. Significantly at a time of economic depression, this included thinking about social issues. In later life, he credited his school experience as instrumental in interesting him in architecture and philosophy and in stimulating his lifelong interest in human environments and social justice (Banerjee and Southworth, 1990: 11). By contrast, his higher education and professional training followed an uncertain path - albeit one that serendipitously allowed h i m to blend an architect's threedimensional and visual design sensitivities w i t h a planner's understanding

of urban form and structure. A year's architectural study at Yale (1935-6) was followed by 18 months spent w i t h the Fellowship of trainee architects r u n by the veteran modern architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and then by a move to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study structural engineering and then biology (1939-40). After briefly being employed by a private architectural practice, he was drafted into the US Army Corps of Engineers for the duration of the Second World War, returning to higher education under a demobilisation scheme i n 1946. He earned a Bachelor of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) i n 1947. This would prove to be his only degree, since he never undertook postgraduate study. These repeated changes i n direction contrasted markedly w i t h the trajectory of the remainder of his career. After a year spent employed as a town planner i n Greensboro (North Carolina, US), Lynch was invited to return to M I T i n 1948 as an instructor in town planning, largely on the strength of his undergraduate dissertation - an enthusiastic treatise on urban renewal w i t h case-study material from Cambridge, Massachusetts (Lynch, 1947). He worked his way up to full Professor by 1963, remaining at M I T until retirement in 1978. Subsequently devoting himself to consultancy through the firm that he founded w i t h his colleague Stephen Carr (Carr, Lynch and Associates), he nevertheless retained his research and teaching

1984: 523). Finally. Growing up in Cities (Lynch. how it feels underfoot. 1996: 584) and the one that effectively laid down the SPATIAL CONTRIBUTIONS Broadly speaking. Lynch published a further sequence of four books. This abiding fascination w i t h urban form (see also Lynch. it had become 'an investigation of the individual's perception of the urban landscape . when he linked this issue to broader questions of aesthetics in a seminar at M I T (Lynch. By 1958-9. links with M I T until his sudden death in July 1984. to devise principles of notation through which to record his observations. 1981) considered the relationship between fundamental human values and the city.. as the project matured. The objective of this work was 'the development of new design possibilities and principles for the city' (ibid. 1976: 8). how patterns of these sensations make up the quality of places. 1977) drew on a participatory multinational programme funded by UNESCO to investigate children's perceptions of the city. the founder and head of MIT's Centre for Advanced Visual Studies. 1972) reflected on the temporal meaning of places within the city. considering: 'what one can see. he had pondered the question of how people navigated the streets of big cities as early as 1952. however. since themes that he developed in his work during the 1950s were continually revisited throughout his career. 1962) developed the planning implications of the perceptual analyses offered by The Image of the City. and to supply the fundamental criteria and techniques for conceiving. As initiated in 1954. Lynch addressed the question of managing the sensory meaning of the environment.Kevin Lynch guidelines for his research in future years.). An ensuing textbook entitled Site Planning (Lynch.. 1960). 1984: 152). Here. After a fallow period of critical contemplation (Carr et al. 2009: np). 1964) considering the role played by road travel in constructing urban imagery. the inhabitant's and the highway traveller's image of the city. What Time is This Place? (Lynch. with the jointly-authored A View from the Road (Appleyard et al. Lynch made four major contributions towards developing a more . Its strong support for the notion of conservation tied in with his next volume. the smell of the air.. The principal results of this programme appeared in The Image of the City (Lynch. and the use of the signs and symbols in the cityscape'.. expressing and controlling our perceptual environment' (MIT. The emphasis inverted. examining how such values should guide the performance dimensions necessary for good spatial and physical design. This stability of employment at M I T perhaps contributed to the consistency shown in his approach to research. A year abroad funded by a Ford Foundation grant and largely spent in Florence allowed him to develop a deep appreciation of the significance of place within a city. which Lynch co-directed with Gyorgy Kepes. and how that quality affects our immediate well-being. For example.. A Theory of Good City Form (Lynch. 1954) led to a five-year research programme. funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. and to reflect on the nature of urban form. the ambitious Managing the Sense of a Region (Lynch.. 1976). and our understandings' (Lynch. our actions. easily the most cited of his seven books (Pearce and Fagence. the aim was to undertake an 'investigation directed toward development of a theoretical concept of city form . the sounds of bells and motorcycles.

he provided insight into citizens' differential knowledge of the urban environment and supplied an accessible methodology by which it might be studied. The assessments were made on the basis of a five-fold typology of urban elements. namely: 'paths' (channels along which people moved through the city). The explanatory results suggested that experience gained from car travel could shape urban imagery beyond the realm currently i n focus. statues or physical features). they interviewed small samples of predominantly middle-class people i n each city to investigate residents' perceptions of the central city. public buildings. directions for making specific trips in the city and informal questions about orientation. Los Angeles. and 'nodes' (strategic places where navigational decisions have to be made). Perception of districts waned as residents became more familiar w i t h the city. 'landmarks' (such as familiar stores.. The Image of the City reported on how Lynch and his team tested this idea in three American cities: Boston.a quality that he called 'imageability' . As noted above.Key Thinkers on Space and Place profound understanding of urban spatial cognition.arguing it was most likely that 'imageable' cities were ones that could be apprehended as patterns of high continuity w i t h interconnected parts. 'edges' (boundaries). if a city was 'imageable'. Lynch argued that paths . New York and Philadelphia). seemingly because of their role in navigation. was made relevant to an urban context through the concept of 'legibility'. Lynch and Rivkin (1959) studied the diverse and sometimes unexpected features that subjects recalled after a walk around a block i n central Boston. The results suggested that urban space was perceived i n terms of well-known clusters of points linked together by clearly defined paths that traverse less familiar areas. First. or the ease w i t h which individuals can organise the various elements of urban form into coherent 'images'. The View from the Road (Appleyard et al. verbal lists of distinctive features. 'districts'. aesthetic and largely visual experience of motorists travelling along freeways into four American cities (Boston. For example. Findings for individual respondents were aggregated and compared w i t h visual surveys carried out by trained observers.mental representations of the world that people develop through their experience and which act as the basis for their behaviour. presumably through gaining more detailed knowledge. the changing impressions of land and water. This concept. the vista of the distant city skyline. In brief outline. 1964) extended the analysis to road travel. whereas landmarks assumed greater prominence with familiarity. Hartford. In other words. This was supplemented w i t h a more detailed study carried out on a seven-mile section of the Northeast Expressway into Boston. and a series of notable landmarks all served to give clues about the nature of .which primarily meant streets .were the main structural element in images of thei city and that the sensory experience gained from travelling through urban space was qualitatively important i n image formation. Lynch argued that spatial knowledge centres on environmental 'images' . Lynch (1960) suggested that cities varied i n the extent that they evoked a strong image . it was also likely to be 'legible'. Juxtaposed against the prevailing ideology that saw the significance of streets primarily i n terms of how well they handled flows. using such techniques as sketch maps. and Jersey City (New Jersey). which mirrored a similar idea developed earlier by Kenneth Boulding (1956). Lynch's second contribution concerned way-finding and the importance of the street in structuring urban experience. which was accomplished by studying the conscious.

. recognising too the close relationship between KEY ADVANCES AND CONTROVERSIES As an academic always seeking to be actively involved in practice. In terms of practice. Australia. the impact of his original studies on policy for city design was rather less than he had hoped. and most notably his books. Lynch's work needs to be viewed through a dual lens. What Time is This Place? (Lynch. concluding that 'knowledge of how people react to their physical environment. In each case. 1972: 241) . as Lynch himself (1984: 159) later recognised. 2009: 91). is quite as important as knowing the technical or economic or sociological resultants of a given form' (Lukashok and Lynch. which he self-deprecatingly argued was because 'they have proved so difficult to apply'. Mark Fried. Thirdly. 1977) reported on the ways in which small groups of adolescents from four countries (Argentina. the evidence stressed the role of the home neighbourhood as an anchor point in the child's experience of the city. Maki. which the individual could use to make inference. it recognised the realities of individual experience at a time when urban renewal policies threatened to brush such niceties aside in the Olympian pursuit of bringing planned order to perceived urban chaos.Kevin Lynch place and the formation of community identity. Lynch played an important part in reassessing the value of neighbourhood life in children's development. as a scaffold to which we attach meanings' (Lynch. 1972) maintained that people's innate sense of time was a vital part of the meaning allotted to place and an important ingredient in individual well-being. which effectively separated meaning from form. Growing up in Cities (Lynch. this was a corrective to earlier emphases. One of his first articles dealt w i t h the elements of the city's physical environment that left the deepest impression. left a potent legacy . Two decades later. Although some have argued that the publication of The Image of the City in 1960 was in tune w i t h the increasing abstraction of the city by heralding 'the transformation of the city into mere signs' (e. By contrast his writings. Ian Nairn and a handful of others who looked beyond the consensual Modernist approaches guiding urban policy i n the years after the Second World War and resensitised our appreciation of the intricacies of the urban mosaic. Yet he always regarded 'the image of the spatial environment . Finally. In part. The 1950s research programme was concerned w i t h the identity and structure of city images. As such.g. Certainly. Mexico and Poland) used and valued the urban environment. interest in direct application of his techniques to practical planning issues proved at best short-lived. he ranks alongside Jane Jacobs.. Most notably. and how they invest it w i t h emotional qualities. Yet. Boston itself. Lynch's work undoubtedly contributed to a new agenda that paid attention to the human scale.a subject that he partly addressed through his multifaceted research on the temporal dimension of the individual's experience of the city. The feelings of attachment and identity so engendered needed to be respected both in policies for environmental change and when dealing w i t h issues involving conservation. 1956: 152). Lynch stressed the importance of time in the meaning of place.

w i t h the basic concepts and methods soon adopted and replicated by others. 1980: 97-106). 1969) and of the lack of attention to the functional and symbolic meanings of urban space (Steinitz. which.g. collection of ethnographies of the 'road' (Laurier et a l .Key Thinkers on Space and Place for research in a variety of fields. Jonge. 1962. 2008: 3).at least in the minds of social science researchers to the belief that cognitive-behavioural research might provide direct input into urban policy. Within 15 years.. Venezuela) and gave credence . has retained an enduring appeal for researchers interested in the ideas of cities as expressions of core human values. There was no ready-made body of theory or methodology that could be pressed into service for studies of urban spatial cognition. were then strongly influenced by Skinnerian behaviourism and preferred strict laboratory control to the vagaries of environmental settings.. 1968). 1973. 1963. and Orleans. 1973). Appleyard. there were substantive studies consolidating his findings in. it quickly became one of the mainstays of the cognitive-behavioural movement that flourished w i t h i n geography in the 1960s and early 1970s. A Theory of Good City Form (Lynch. 1977) was the forerunner of further international collaborative projects on the development of children in cities (Malone. 1999). 1981). other cities of the US. In Lynch's defence. timeliness. is dwarfed by the lasting impact of The Image of the City (Lynch. The influence of these writings. Klein.. however. Use of freehand sketch-maps was criticised as possibly indicating more about cartographic abilities rather than about cognitive representations of the city (Spencer. Not surprisingly. as well as contributing to the fields of developmental psychology and children's geographies. Gulick. 1971). Goodey et al. Both the conceptual frameworks and . 1960). the most likely sources of such insights. Lynch's work offered an inclusive package that blended conceptual clarity (based on the concepts of 'legibility' and 'imageability') w i t h ready-made methods of data collection and analysis that apparently revealed the cognitive (or mental) maps held by city residents. Lebanon. The original studies were avowedly tentative and invited extension or modification. 2007: 2) and among the first of a 'long-running . even after half a century. 1973}.. I n such circumstances. Researchers attempting to use the five-fold typology of spatial cognitive elements quickly realised that the classification system was often difficult to apply and had no specific basis in psychological theory (Goodey et al. accessibility and apparent policy relevance. Geographers in particular were looking for new insights into the relationships between spatial cognition and behaviour. inter alia. Francescato and Mebane. These replications quickly suggested extensions and the need for modification (Gold. 1967. Growing up in Cities (Lynch. 1964) with its focus on visual perception and highway travel. answers can be offered for most of these criticisms. Psychologists. The View from the Road (Appleyard et al. There were criticisms of the emphasis upon vision as opposed to non-visual components of sensory experience (Southworth. the Federal Republic of Germany. For its part. His former colleague Donald Appleyard (1976) applied Lynch's ideas to the development of a new town (Ciudad Guayana.. environmental and Utopian discourse. the UK. can still be found firmly lodged in the bestseller lists of books about the urban environment. the Netherlands. 1971. a book which straddled the interstices of urban. Its success came from a combination of innovative thinking. and Italy (e. 1969. was an early study of driving landscapes (Merriman. Venezuela.

K. M. 1996: 34-6ff. (ed. see Everitt et al. Cambridge.E. Toluca and Warsaw. there is no denying the role that his work played in the recent past as a cornerstone of an impressive corpus of humanely-informed research or its continuing status as a genuine contribution towards building a deeper understanding of the experiential qualities of urban space and place. K. Lynch. Bridge and Watson. Vertesi. Cambridge. Melbourne. Salta. Cambridge. Southworth (eds). MA: MIT Press. 422-52. D. (1956) The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society. Cambridge. Cambridge.g. Appleyard.g. Planning. Yet. observation and applied commonsense . Lynch. (1964) The View from the Road. Appleyard. in L. Banerjee and M. Cambridge. Lynch. Cambridge. Certainly. Huynh et al. pp. (1972) What Time is This Place? Cambridge. Urban Growth and Regional Development: The Experience of the Guayana Programme of Venezuela. 2002: 6). (1962) Site Planning. City Sense and City Design: Writings and Projects of Kevin Lynch. while many recent citations of The Image of the City are contextual and essentially reflect the book's special status as the progenitor of an important discourse about urbanism. This stems primarily from the close association between Lynchinspired studies of urban imagery and behavioural geography. (1976) Managing the Sense of a Region. Mexico City. K. D. MA: MIT Press. in T.. Secondary Sources and References Appleyard. D. J. while his oeuvre remains a source of inspiration for researchers within planning and architecture (e. MA: MIT Press. Banerjee. (1969) 'City designers and the pluralistic city'. K. Ellin. 1978. 49:551-7. (1981) A Theory of Good City Form.R. Lynch. 2008. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 2008). and Southworth. MA: MIT Press. LYNCH'S KEY WORKS Appleyard. a substantial number of studies still employ the original research techniques or conceptual frameworks as an integral part of their research design regardless of the existing weight of criticism (e. pp. (1976) Planning a Pluralist City: Conflicting Realities in Ciudad Guayana. and Myer. it is important even here not to underestimate Lynch's pervasive contribution. K. (1990) 'Kevin Lynch: his life and work'. (1960) The Image of the City.Kevin Lynch methods. MA: MIT Press. these conclusions are tempered by recognition that the longterm legacy of Lynch's writings varies from discipline to discipline. 1-29. K. To some extent. it has declined as an active influence upon the research agenda of human geography. MA: MIT Press. were derived on an ad hoc basis from a mixture of intuition. T. MA: MIT Press. which atrophied markedly from 1980 onwards (see entry on Reg Golledge). K. notwithstanding the changing directions and priorities of geographical research. Cambridge. Appleyard. For instance. MA: MIT Press. Hence. Lynch. Lynch. Boulding.) (1977) Growing up in Cities: Studies of the Spatial Environment of Adolescence in Crakow.. D. Cambridge.. therefore. 2008. (1978) 'The major published works of Kevin Lynch: an appraisal'. Town Planning Review. . Lynch. Rodwin and Associates (eds). MA: MIT Press. MA: MIT Press.a potent amalgam that has maintained the appeal of Lynch's approaches despite the reservations expressed by researchers. K.

(2002) Introduction: reading city imaginations'.. G. A. pp. H. Merriman. Mexico'. in A.. and Watson.R. (2008) 'The imprints of tourism on Puerto Vallarta.W. Mobilities. Hall. 151-62.edu/archives/research/collections/collections-mc/mc208. Lynch. and Fagence.. 52. Birming Centre for Urban and Regional Studies. pp 115-30. A. (1984) 'Kevin Lynch: designing the image of the city'.. 34:233-48... Ellin. Sanchez. Oxford: Blackwell. L. Laurier. Urban Core and Inner City. Downs and D. Watts. Stea (eds). N. Swan. (1999) 'Growing up in cities as a model of participatory planning and "place-making" with young people'. H. (1973) 'Differential cognition of urban residents: effects of social scale on mapping' in R. American Planning Association Journal. Chicago: Aldine.. University of Birmingham.. Noble. R.. Malone. (1980) An Introduction to Behavioural Geography. Image and Environment. Maki. and Rivkin. (1954) The form of cities'. 3-10. Jonge. D. (1984) 'Reconsidering The Image of the City. Steinitz. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Doherty. Journal of the American Institute of Planners. Downs and D. Strebel. Oxford: Blackwell. Watson (eds). Cities of the Mind. C... 88-109.mit. D.E. Sormani. 286-306. (1947) 'Controlling the flow of rebuilding and replanning in residential areas'. 23: 576-98. Klein. S. Krieger and W. Bridge and S. (1996) 'The legacy of Kevin Lynch: research implications'. Hollister (eds). and Weilenmann. W. O. R (2007) Driving Spaces. Birmingham: Centre for Urban and Regional Studies. Chavez-Dagostino.E. (2009) 'Fragmentation and friction as urban threats in the post-1956 city'. (1963) 'Images of an Arab city'. J. Annals of Tourism Research. and Smith. Goodey. de (1962) 'Images of urban areas: their structure and psychological foundations'. University of Amsterdam (eds). Perry.. Leiden: E. A. 8:24-34. 52:222-40. Lynch. Pica.R. E.S. Pearce. Juhlin. (1973) 'An evaluation of cognitive mapping in neighbourhood perception'. F . Southworth. Vertesi. Brill. D. Lynch.. (1967) The delineation of the town centre in the image of its citizens: a report of methods and preliminary results of a town-sociological study'. Taylor. Iibraries. B. Department of City and Regional Planning.1/12525 Accessed 28 August 2009. Unpublished Bachelor of City Pl ning thesis. Journal of the American Institute of Planners. Brown. 18 (2): 17-23. M. pp. N. Francescato. and Spencer. Chicago: Aldine.A.. E. A. L.. pp. Environment and Behaviour. M. Social Studies of Science. Image and Environment.M. Duffett. Carr. net/1721. Rodwin and R. (1968) 'Meaning and the congruence of urban form and activity'. 28:266-76. 83-104. Journal of the American Institute of Planners.Key Thinkers on Space and Place Bridge. (1959) 'A walk around the block'. Lukashok.. (1969) The sonic environment of cities'. Lorimer. 22: 142-152. B. Oxford: Blackwell. Stea (eds). in L. (2008) 'Mind the gap: the London Underground map and users' representations of urban space'. University of Birmingham. R. Gold.M. (1996) Postmodern Urbanism. K. pp. K. and Romo. K. Gold.. PL. W. Journal of the American Institute of Planners. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Gulick. Huynh. Rodwin. Canadian Geographer.. Jones. K. Scientific American. P . K. 131-47. S. and Mebane. Research Memorandum 10. K. in Sociological Department. J.M. (1971) The city scene: an exploration into the image of central Birming as seen by area residents'. New York: Plen pp. Urban Design. in G.. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 59:523-5. J. 1:49-70. D. 3:1-23. Massam.S. 29:179-97. J. 38:7-33. Saunders (eds). Spencer. P. L. The Blackwell City Reader. B. J.html#toc Accessed 17 August 2009. Jalisco. D. Everitt. G. (2008) 'Interpreting urban space through cognitive map sketching and sequence analysis'. Oxford Brookes University . Gold. and Hack.B. (1956) 'Some childhood memories of the city'. available at: hdl. Youth Studies Australia.handle. G. I. (1973) 'How citizens view two great cities: Milan and Rome' in R. 190 (4): 54-63.J. Landscape. Research Memorandum 23. Orleans. S.H. Massachusetts Institute of Technology) (2009) 'Perceptual form of the city 1951-1960: historical note'. M. A.J. O. John R. Canadian Geographer. (2008) 'Driving and "passengering": notes on the ordinary organization of car travel'. MIT (Institute Archives and Special Collections. M. and Lynch. Lynch.

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