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What makes a good city?
General theory of good city form; a new try at an old subject

Kevin Lynch

Hoist-lezing 1980


What makes a good city?
General theory of good city form; a new try at an old subject

Kevin Lynch

Hoist-lezing 1980

bringing specialists from discrete fields together. that of Eindhoven. in the period from 1914 to 1946. and on the other. the research work carried out in those laboratories attained a high level of excellence in a relatively short space of time. namely 'the development of the technical sciences and their interaction. Holst exerted a profound influence on scientific research in the Netherlands. In a unique atmosphere which not only encouraged the untrammelled interchange of ideas but avoided rivalries and provided opportunities for international contacts. The remarkable thing is that. The first of the Holst Memorial Lectures was held in 1977. The Holst family approved the association of the name of professor Holst with the lectures. Eindhoven. from the fact that. they still are. The organisation of these lectures has been made possible thanks to the financial support of NV Philips' Gloeilampenfabrieken. Holst in the fields of education and research in the Netherlands. That the levels of knowledge and technology were highly esteemed in the Netherlands is evident. with industrial applications. for the year 1956 when the Eindhoven University of Technology was inaugurated. Holst's most important contribution to scientific development was that. among other things. Prof. developing forwardlooking techniques in the process. it was decided to commemorate future anniversaries with a Holst Memorial Lecture. 2 . whose first director he was. His great interest in the application of the physical sciences to technology is expressed in the central theme of the lectures. Holst was chairman of both the committees which played a vital role in setting up the second university of technology in this country. apart from Holst himself. the emphasis laid on the social sciences was very great. Indeed he was closely concerned with it and made essential contributions to the philosophy on which the curricula of the various degree courses are based. The choice of 'Holst Memorial Lectures' as the title emphasizes the importance of prof.Holst Memorial Lectures In 1976 on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the inauguration of the Eindhoven University of Technology. he set up the Philips' Research Laboratories. many members of the staff of the Research Laboratories were appointed to ordinary or extraordinary professorships at Dutch universities. and the consequent impact on society'. in fact. on the one hand. Prof. He was Kamerlingh Onnes' assistant in Leiden and carried out the tests which led to the latter's discovery of superconductivity. with the physical sciences and mathematics.

A. Casimir Prof.E. Joh. de Vries 3 . A lecturer of international fame will in each case be invited to deliver an add res on the chosen central theme from the viewpoint of his own discipline to an audience made up of interested people from industry.G.ir. H. students as well as members of the Eindhoven public. J. Erkelens (chairman) Dr.G. Vossers Prof. de Bruijn Prof.ir. dr. The Holst Memorial Lectures Organising Committee. N.dr.B.The Holst Memorial Lectures are to be held annually preferably in December. dr. Prof. Pannenborg Prof. ir. the lecturer's own field. G.dr.

4 . De Hoist-lezing werd toegelicht met dia's. die door Kevin Lynch is gecorrigeerd.De tekst van de Hoist-lezing 1980 is de weergave van de geluidsband. Zie hiervoor *. In overleg met de spreker is besloten slechts een selectie van deze dia's in de gedrukte tekst op te nemen en voorts in de tekst aan te geven op welke plaats een dia is vertoond.

But I would say that both act together. It is impossible to cross all these lines. What makes a good city depends on who you are and what your interests are. that it supports the functioning of our bodies 5 . not a strict rule. characteristics are: vital itv. If you are hoping that I will give you a model of the future. I ask whether the form of that city really makes any difference and how we can analyse such differences. I begin by sions that These five Those are proposing that there are five important performance dimenin sum make up the good city. My subject today is the question: what makes a good city? Of course that is a preposterous question. it has more or less of this thing. For one thing. then I will disappoint you. that is. that our relations to each other as human beings are also influenced by the physical environment. fit. then one speaks nonsense. one. they would assert that the things around us are not what matter. I will talk about something I call a performance dimension. I speak of the physical city. More exactly. Another general criticism may be made to raising this question. round or long or tailor full of intricate devices. you can tell me. By vitality I mean the degree to which the city supports the fundamental. What I want to talk about is something deeper than that. yes. sense.Ladies en gentlemen. When one tries to generalize and to speak for everyone. access and control. biological performance of human beings: that the city gives us enough air. perhaps an impossible That is why I try to answer it. By looking at any physical city. In that sense the physical environment is indeed critical to our welfare. Certainly I am not going to speak about the ideal city. some wonderful place. since one cannot generalize across cultures. Many people would say that this is impossible to answer. but rather our relations to other people. water and food to eat. the five qualities that we seek. It is this: what are the criteria for a good city? And therefore I will talk about performance. made up of things and activities. but some aspect of the city that you can describe and yet connects with our important values. the spatial city. These are the key to our happiness and our welfare. We shall see.

although we may more rarely act on that knowledge. because specific to the human organism and the human species. social and psychological among others. 6 . This goes beyond our pure biological requirements. to move or whatever. to other people. By distinguishing these degrees of access one measures the justice of that city. how responsible and well informed they are in that control. socially and physically. would be matters of fit. last on our list. We are talking here not only of the transportation system. whether it is the way they wish to eat. These are a host of qualities. to different kinds of places. is the dimension of control. What is an adequate housing system depends on the way people are accustomed to live. it allows you to connect with all sorts of things at will. and so on. or to sleep. this turns out to be at the root of the justice and satisfaction of any place. /and the degree to which that organisation can be connected with other meanings that they hold. There also is a good deal of work on it.lIcome back to that dimension in greater length. the way in which the structure of the city fits the way our brains work. but many other kinds of accessibility. again and again the crucial aspect of any environment. This is the fit between the physical city and the mind. This is the degree to which the environment is under the control of the people who actually use it or reside in it. Finally. fit is the way in which the physical city matches the way people want to act. but they are quite general. the diversity that is presented to you. a good city is one which gives you access to many things: to services. Matters of adequate housing. psychologically. all those things that allow us to survive as individuals and the species to continue. Many people would say that this is the supreme quality of a good city. Indeed. We already know a great deal about this. I wi. to information. the requirements of our culture. what they think an adequate space is.and their temperature regulation. is the degree to which the city can be perceived and organized in the minds of the people that actually live in it. but the degree of choice that is offered. and so on. one can make a fairly radical analysis of any city by looking at different groups to find what they have access to. which is one important aspect. The second dimension. Fourth. It is not only the quantity of accessible things that is important. which I call sense. Repeatedly. what they can reach within their means. for example. Thirdly. how stable that control is.

The second is justice: the distribution of goods. but also because it may appear the least tangible of all these dimensions. you begin to sense some of the feelings that they hold about their city. One of our first studies was of three cities in the United States. the fundamental performances of any settlement. and describe it in more detail. We began with Boston. who gets the access? These are very general statements. but at great length. the warm colours are the things our respondent drew first.I think these are the crucial values. partly because I am interested in it and have done work on it. One is efficiency: the price you pay for this or that good. How did we get to this question of the sense of a city? 20 years ago we began by being curious about how people find their way in any city. a peculiarity in its geometry that most people simply cannot 7 . You see the collection of streets which make up the Back-Bay and the Common. As an example. She had the trouble with drawing the Common that most people have. Once you have specified how much of these dimensions a city has. Besides these five there are two measures that always turn up in any list of good things. I will choose the issue of sense. We asked them all sorts of questions about the way they conceived central Boston. It is not the actual map. we said. then you are able to say to what degree it is a good city. that the way in which the city "fits the mind can also be analysed. you begin to see it through their eyes. just like the other dimensions. imagine you are starting off the Massachusetts General Hospital and are going to South Station. What I mean to assert is. In doing so. the city I live in now. This original research was a study of how people picture a city mentally as a prelude to moving about in it-a purely practical problem. the one hardest to measure. In this case. because we copied it in different colours in order to show the sequence of drawing. how would you go and what would you see along in the way? We asked them to make maps of the city. we asked them to take an imaginary journey through it. Let me take one of those dimensions. We then went deeper and deeper into the meaning that place had for them. We asked them to describe it. Who gets the fit. since the Common is a very strange figure. being five-sided and with five right angles. We interviewed a rather small sample of people. this is one of the maps that was made at that time.

In other words. 8 . * This is the same image transcribed on an accurate map of the city. something in the structure of Boston. but that relation is not entirely clear. because of this difficulty with the Common. Indeed they are the key aspects of Boston for most people. she knows that the shopping district is somewhere off the Common. common features that people talked about. To give another example of that same kind of analysis here in Los Angeles. but exactly how one gets to it is all a puzzle. the Back-Bay and the Common. She realises intellectually that Boston is on the water. We learned that there was a public image. They show that she has the Back-Bay and the Common very clearly in mind. The map indicates what were the key elements of the city for her. This is only a single example. not the metropolitan area.understand. Then she moves into the main shopping district and gets the relations between them wrong. We took a sample of people in five different locations in Los Angeles. and there are other things that she cannot describe. And somewhere out here is the harbour. but it illustrates the study we made. there were features which roused strong emotional feelings. here are certain things that she knows very well and can put together vividly in her mind. She has only a rather vague idea of where the water is: the connection of the harbour and the Charles river is just a name. Now we are trying out that technique on a far different scale on a city which is perhaps a hundred kilometers from north to south * and this is just the city. Besides that.

just north of Watts. 9 . which is almost off the edge for them. Here is the kind of information we got from the people in Westwood. is an uppermiddle class. In this case we asked those people to sketch a map of the city and than put what they drew back on to a true-scale map. wealthy area. predominantly Jewish. right next to the University of California. The connection between the Pacific Ocean and the center and their own area they know in great detail. the uppermiddle class area. Avalon is a Black area. so they remember that. Fairfax is occupied by older people. Boyle Heights is a Spanish speaking area. They have a sense of the San Fernando Valley on the other side. Thus they have a fairly extensive knowledge. where the celebrated riots occurred.chosen to be quite different in terms of social and economic class: Westwood. They have a weak connection down to the harbour and to the working-class section of the city. but it grades off according to social and economic class. Watts was where the riots were held. You can see a rather dense picture of the central part.

They still connect to the San Fernando Valley and to the Pacific Ocean. next to Westwood. but all that which is south of them is ignored. access. we find they have a somewhat less extensive image. Immediately. that these We have done similar work in Poland. and how they would like to see it changed. they drew us maps of Los Angeles which were like that. 10 . Their territory is the center of town and their own district.* When we ask the people in Fairfax. it gives you some sense of comparative different economic groups enjoy in their city. These are a transposition of their information on an accurate scale map. how they used it. Finally when we went to the Mexican Americans of Boyle Heights. This was part of some studies for UNESCO made in five different countries. In each case we asked a group of teenagers how they felt about their environment.

the particular triangular shape of the island and so on. they knew how they are connected (in fact they all come into a common road). the way the glaciers have scored the land. The interesting thing about this particular sketch is that it follows quite closely what is a rather intricate. And yet when you ask him to draw the picture of where he lives. they knew each one of these buildings as a particular building. no feeling of a particular place. they lived in a real community. It shows the major ponds. we got entirely different drawings. they knew what goes on in them. This person even shows the edge of the terminal 11 . That is. He lives in a new high-density apartment development which had just won a prize for its architects. due in part to their physical environment. The children knew their community. they knew its parts. but of course also to their social setting. natural form. It was an utterly different response that we got from these two groups of children. because of the degree to which they had taken account of childrens needs. no sense of local identity.This particular drawing was made by a young boy who lives in Cracow. cut off from any sense of its surroundings. a village which had not been designed by architects. it is a series of anonymous boxes. We have carried out similar inquiries on a large island: Martha's Vineyard * off the coast of Massachusetts. When we asked the same question of children in a little rural village outside of Cracow.

In a sense we were able to get inside their heads. a perception that can stand for all kinds of social meanings and feelings. Using these techniques one can break the sense of an environment down into its parts.all of those things which in most cities are the first objects that people draw. * The small community of Posetano in Italy is another example. but especially because of its physical form. Simply by its being preserited on a slope you are given a vivid perception of the community as a whole. 12 . because of its history. for example. Indeed the map is indicative of the way many people feel about the Vineyard. But the maps are backed up by long interviews.moraine. which can then be identified and studied on the ground. as well as their knowledge of its parts. Most Bostonians know the Back-Bay. this is something to be proud of. so that you can say: this is my city. One of the peculiar things about this drawing is what it does not show: there is only one road on it. Or you can be in a particular place like the Trevi Fountain in Rome down below with the water and the sound of water all around you. Mapping can bring out how people feel about the environment they live in. as far as their environment goes. In other words there are many physical ways by wh ich one can re inforce that sense of identity. Here they set down the natural setting first. These mappers have neglected to add the settlements or the road system. vivid parts to which you can attach your meanings. along that dotted line. * This is a quality that the Back-Bay has. The first element of sense is what I call identity: that qual ity in the environment that helps you to recognize and to remember it vividly. They remember it and can reproduce it. The BackBay is one of those. One difficulty of a slide presentation such as this is that it overemphasizes map-drawing. It * is an unmistakable place. The first requirement of a feel ing of affection for any city is that it has memorable. a very remarkable natural location of which they are deeply fond. one that everyone remembers.

Some of * you may know this as one of the early attempts at planned housing in the U. It simply means that the place is unmistakable. or that it is beautiful. When you see the contrast be* tween those simple row of houses and the huge tenements which surround it. The identity of some place need not require that you Iike it. This happens to be Sunnyside Gardens in New York City. something that designers call the sense of place. my slides are not of particularly remarkeble places. called * Akihabara. flashing lights. and yet that is the place that has a very deep memory for everyone who has lived there. 13 . you get some sense of why it has such a strong image.Here a park underneath an enormous tree that qivesthat same special quality. They illustrate how rather ordinary places can have the quality of identity. a wonderful assault on the senses of colours. Its identity resides not only in the place. but a quality in the minds of people. It is the relation between person and place that makes identity. Sunnyside has a very simple courtyard plan. But remember that identity is not a quality residing in the place. Here is the section of Tokyo where they sell electronic parts. For the most part.. but in its setting. noise and confusion which makes that section of Tokyo one of the most unforgettable.S. Those trees down there are Sunnyside. an experiment which later led to Radburn and many other famous planning efforts. highly identified places that you can imagine.

There is not only an identity of place. a public dance on the steps of the Cathedral. Or in Bath you can see the way in which the city fits the country-side. You can see that the entrance is clearly marked. It was that structure that we were able to test in our maps. The connection between ground and building and city is clearly evident * and memorable. the shape of the ground. 14 . but also an identity of events. and the position of the wall. It gives people a means to reniember events that happened and so helps them to structure their life. This is the sense of time in contrast to the sense of space. a wonderful event when the band simply starts to play and then * people stop on the street and begin to dance the Sardana. The next level is what I would call structure: the way in which the parts can be fitted together. Th is is a view of Florence. You can have an entrance which clearly organizes that great city for you. the foundation of a good sense of the environment. Identity is the beginning. you see some famous landmarks in the distance. This event occurs in Barcelona.

I suddenly realized that that was my footprint which I had made when the concrete was fresh. gives you an intuition of the size of that city. By seeing how those colums are sunken into the ground. was still there. There is a connection between a long past and a now that makes the world come together. and there. I was brought up in the northside of Chicago. not only for the people on the ground who are confronted by this moat. This is Boston and its Turnpike cutting through the city. Chicago. was a small footprint. There was a sudden connection between myself and the past and the physical environment. I happened to look down on the concrete side-walk. one gains an instant intimation of the passage of time.Or in my own city. Time spoke out. we are concerned not only with a structure of space. a dowdy old place. There are counter-examples. the way in which major landmarks can be seen far in the distance. * 15 . who can make no connection between their destination and the pattern of the rest of the city. The curve and sweep of that water front. running all along the northside of that city. cracked and broken and grimy. you have the great lake-front. After 20 years I came back to see myoid neighbourhood. but also for the people down in the cars. and I felt a connection to it. set in it. Myoid apartment-house. Once again. The way in which that low-level street has been cut through has confused the basic structure of the city. and of how it all fits together. but a structure of time. You see that structure of time in the cloister of a church in Sevilla. One of the few great planning achievements of the United States is Chicago's Lincoln Park.

who the groups are who build the city. the placement of the door hood. look at an ordinary street in down-town Boston. * On the other hand. They are not very good houses. then that family has a way in which it can express itself on the outside. the painting of the house. all make it possible for that family to say: we are here. The physical form does not fit the social form. I take this very ordinary scene in the city of Chicago to make the point. And so it is possible for any observer to get a better sense of who is there and what is happening. The environment is incongruent to them. One way is something that I call congruence. which are the real working parts. the painting of the rail. You might answer me by saying this is a very good expression of who decides. we are particular people. These are small houses. Nevertheless it is not possible for the people who work there to express themselves in a place like that. built in the lower westside after the great Chicago fire. Whether you like aluminium door hoods of that kind or not. But since the scale of the house fits the scale of the social unit. are hidden from us. which gives us a feeling of deep joy in being able to apprehend it. Then we can go on to talk about the ways in which the perception of a city connects with other kinds of meanings and concepts in our head. Whether you like the design of these buildings or not.It is the sense of time and space which allows us to order the world. the basic social units contained in them are not expressed on the outside. The office groups. 16 . which is the family.

or the actual showing of real objects (such as this market in Venice). of things being made. and to see. Therefore markets (like this one in England). One guesses. Once you know the key. in contrast to urban ones. what roles they play. Our connections are poorer. a very run-down street near the center of Chicago. we can see less and less of what is actually happening. not so much in school as out in society. on the other hand. or what kinds of creatures have walked over that sand. is that it is one of the few industrial processes that we can still see going on in public. one only has to look to know how little people walk here. Yet traces also exist in the city. from the traces in the physical environment. In the modern city we are removed. all of those things are being lost in the contemporary city. That education is being lost in our cities. * * * * * It is a game that I have played with students to ask them to read a piece of the city and then make guesses about who lives there. of things being bought and sold. the climate that those plants have to deal with. of who lives there. The natural world is full of indications and traces. seeing how grown-ups do things. in a way that the city often fails to be. It is very important for the education of the child. traces help to see the control that was necessary to achieve some particular form. ·of things being destroyed. but one sees the traces of those activities. This is a street in China: they are carding cotton by beating a bow to align the fibers. Or even on this view. because one gets a sense. This is just one example of the kind of thing that is a pleasure to see. you can read a great deal out of any natural scene: the types of plants.Still another quality is what I call transparency: or the degree to which one can actually see what is going on. give you a sense of power and of dominance. That is not simply of interest to a tourist. That is one of the great advantages of the natural environment. One of the reasons why the act of building attracts so many people to watch. the geological history. by means of their traces. right away. 17 . One of the great attractions of any city of Ch ina is that you can walk down the street and see all sorts of things happening on the side-walk and in the houses. or men who are actually doing something (such as this fisherman mending his net). Children learn. what mistakes they make. You have an immediate sense of what is going on. Even when you are ignorant about a culture. how people put values on different ways of movement. and what they are doing. how the wind is blowing. that the parking meters are in good condition. It is an open book. Not only can one see actual activities.

13 .

We have to be careful if we attempt to control those signs. of course you have to understand the language. People use these indications for practical reasons.There are other ways in which one can read the environment: directly through the signs. The city is used by all social groups as a means of communication. * These are the things that can be analysed: one can measure the identity of a place. lest we make the city in a sense speechless. or its structure. sometimes legitimate and sometimes less legitimate. but also for a sense of the whole environment. has a wonderful quality of its own. just as the buildings in this university are used as a medium of communication. its degree of transparency. one can analyse its degree of congruence. Our cities are overwhelmed with these explicit signs. All of those things can be 19 . especially when you cannot read it explicitly. And sometimes that kind of expression. for example: legibility of a place. or its legibility. When one comes to this explicit signing.

there comes something much more difficult. One can look at one of the Shinto shrines in Japan. This happens to be Chatham Village in Pittsburg. "lot great architecture at all. of comfort. one can sense it even with no knowledge of what it is that is being symbolized. But by this particular choice of symbols. Sometimes. in judging the sense of a place. And yet the visible way in which they treat these trees and the whole setting of the 20 . maybe unconsciously. the designer was speaking. having no knowledge at all of that religion or of the Japanese culture. of safety. The trees and the hedges are familiar devices. the copying of an English style. to many symbolic meanings: of home. when a deep symbolic meaning is being expressed in an environment. which is the way in which it symbolizes deeper feelings: the sense of community. They can be the source of tremendous public battles. which communicate to people. Lastly. We find that these symbols as to whether you use a round window or a Georgian doorway turn out to be tremendously important. Again I choose a rather ordinary example to show it. the use of brick. of family life. the sense of the universe that it is fitted into. But I must analyse the place and its people together.analysed and I can say that one place has more or less of these qualities than some other place. if often not consciously recognized. and so on.

You say: this is a great city. It communicates deeper meanings than I understand and yet I understand that something important is being communicated. nevertheless one can analyse. the way they perceive it. the way they structure it.shrine makes one realize that this is a sacred place. for any given population. in which the forms of the things seem to fuse with the meanings they are connected to. but apprehend the historic and social meaning of each part. 21 * . As in this view of Florence. They are so built into the culture and so familiar to us. that you look at the city and not only are delighted by seeing it as a whole. the way it fits into their sense of life and community. their feelings for it. All these qualities are what I mean when I talk of the sense of any place. This can also be expressed on the scale of the whole city. and so on. As difficult as it may be to measure the deep symbolic meanings of an environment.

Here it has been raised to the political level. Each one of them can be elaborated with examples. these are measurable. This can be just as much a matter a public policy as is housing or transportation. 22 . give them imaginary situations. Since there are such techniques.its control. That gets overemphasized when using slides.There are developing techniques for studying the image of time and image of space. So that is what I mean by the sence of a place. I could talk about what I mean by vitality of the . To some degree at least. when working with local people. one can in fact talk explicitly about the quality of this particular place: is it better or worse than this other one. give them cameras and ask them to go out and take pictures of elements of the environment that interest them and then talk about those pictures on their return. And to return to our beginning. Most of the interesting work on sense quality in the United States has been done at the neighbourhood level. One can debate the sense of any environment.as sense always is in most planning struggles .one can make it explicit. who have a home territory and feel very strongly about it.its fit . Instead of being a hidden political issue . to the point of stopping major highway developments. or its structure. These are confined to the map·drawing which I showed you. for example.vitality of the city . One may talk at length with people. There are all sorts of devices which can penetrate into the connections between people and their environment.its access . Indeed you can bring sense up to the level of politics which is what planning is about. You can make public policies for improving the sense of a place. for increasing its identity. we could talk about the other dimensions in the same way. Not that we have done very much. for different groups. just as clearly as one can debate the degree to which traffic access is good or bad and the degree of congestion. is it better or worse for these particular people than for some other group.

but how do you get these qualities? Still I would insist: until you know what you want. you cannot get anywhere at all.' I imagine a question in this audience: this is all ve~v fine. Of course these words do not tell you how you achieve such a state. 23 .So we can begin to talk explicitly about the good city.

Produktie: Voorlichtingsdienst en Secretariaat College van Decanen TH Eindhoven Grafische vormgeving en dru k: Groep Reprodu ktie en Fotografie TH '::indhoven .

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