chapter 5, public places urban spaces- Perceptual dimensions
CHAPTER 5 ,PUBLIC PLACES-URBAN SPACES
Matthew Carmona, Tim Heath, Taner Oc, Steve Tiesdell
Anila Rose Cherian
We affect the environment and are affected by it.
For this interaction to happen we must „perceive‟ i.e. be stimulated by
sight, sound, smell or touch.
It involves gathering, organizing and making sense of the environment.
Sensation and perception
These sensory stimuli are perceived and apprecitiated as an
interconnected whole. It provides a cumulative effect.
Dimensions of perception
Cognition: thinking about, organizing, making sense of the
Affective : our feelings, which influence perception of environment
and perception that influences feelings
Interpretative : meaning / association derived from environment. We
rely on memory for points of comparison with newly experienced
Evaluative : incorporates values and preferences and the
determination of „good or „bad‟
Perception is not only biological, but a social and cultural learnt
process as well. It depends of factors like gender, age, ethnicity, lifestyle,
length of residence in an area, and on physical, social and cultural
environment in which a person lives and was raised.
Workable environmental images requires three attributes:
Identity. Structure. Meaning
Kevin Lynch‟s image of the city is based on the concept of mental
Lynch separated meaning from form and explored imageability in terms
of physical qualities relating to identity and structure. He derived 5 key
physical elements through mental mapping / cognitive exercises in
BEYOND THE IMAGE OF A CITY
Areas of criticism in Lynch‟s findings and methods.
Legibility and imageability
Meaning and symbolism
Conclusion drawn was that social and emotional meanings attached
to, or evoked by the elements of the urban environment were at least as
important than the structural and physical aspects of peoples imagery.
ENVIRONMENTAL MEANING AND SYMBOLISM
Sign – signification, signifier, signified
Iconic signs – direct similarity with object
Indexical signs – material relationship with object
Symbolic signs – arbitrary relationship with object
Semiotics involves the layering of meanings
First order sign / primary function – denotation
Second order sign / secondary function – connotation
Buildings in an environment are a symbol in itself. Modernists sought to
escape from symbolizing buildings. They designed to express internal
Post modern style arose to have multiple meanings.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF PLACE
„Sense of place‟- can be understood in terms of „genius loci‟ , Latin concept
that people experience something beyond the physical or sensory properties
of places and can feel an attachment to a spirit of a place.(Jackson, 1994
Eg.Paris, Disney Land, Las Vegas, New York
Phenomenology: while meanings are rooted in their physical settings and
activities, they are not a property of them, but of human interactions and
experiences. Thus what „the environment‟ represents is a function of our own
subjective construction of it.
„place‟ – „belonging‟
Territoriality and personalization
„inside‟-‟outside‟ of a „place‟
Individual identity is associated with personalization and putting a
distinctive stamp on ones environment. It is a „unique address‟
Place = space in image of man
Occasion = time in image of man
Successful places have animation and vitality. They offer what people
want in an attractive and safe environment.
Key attributes : comfort and image, access and linkage, uses and activity,
and sociability (Project for Public Space (1999))
“There is no there, there” ,Gertrude Stein
Negative concept-tends to signify absence or loss of meaning
Casual eradication of distinctive places and making of standardized
Factors contributing to placelessness
Globalization : world is interconnected , central decision making,
two scenarios - convergence where sameness emerges and divergence
where disparate elements maintain cultural and spatial distinctiveness
Mass culture : homogenisation, destroying local cultures
Loss of (attachment) to territory : no care for environment when there is no
sense of belonging. „Existential outsideness‟
Manufacturing of differences- invention or reinvention of places.
Places „imagineered‟ to create uniqueness to attract attention and visitors and
in turn make money.
Invented places are the fiction of architects, authors, artists, designers,
imagineers eg. Disney Land, shopping malls
This concept raises issues like Superficiality, other-directedness, lacking
Superficiality : depthlessness, undermining the real/unique identity of
a place. Architectural „fetishism‟
Other-directedness – created from without rather than within : outside
inventions, rather than autonomous expressions of local
culture,meanings and associations. „Economic space‟ invades
Lacking authenticity : critics regard explicit copies/ references from
past in urban context as „false‟ and „lacking authenticity‟
Public cannot distinguish what is real and what is not (Huxtable,
The unreal America)
Criticism of invented places provokes the question: why
shouldn’t urban design produce places that people like
Although urban design as a process invents or reinvents places with
authenticity or lack of it, it is the people who make places and give
It is the peoples perceptions that are important.