Lecture Notes & Student Works:

History and Built Environment I

A. Lecture Notes –Vocabulary of 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)

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. Class Activities

  1. Describe Alsancak Cumhuriyet Square along with Gaziosmanpaþa Boulevard  by drawing a sketch map of it.”
  1. Write down the common characteristics of the region on the board. Discuss the results.

C. 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


EMPIRICISM— ( Lat. empirismus, the standpoint of a system based on experience.)

A doctrine in epistemology which holds that the source of all human knowledge is experience.   Empiricism was largely a British movement opposed to rationalism .   Major proponents of the theory include LockeBerkeley, and Hume.

emprical (deneysel olan) Experiential.  Knowledge gained empirically is gained through observation of the world.  Compare with a posteriori.  Contrast with a priori and pure.

a posteriori-- Literally,  "after experience".  Any knowledge gained through experience or empirical means is said to be known a posteriori.  Contrast with a priori.

a priori—(deneysel olarak kanitlanamaz) Literally,  "before experience".  Any knowledge which is known to be true without appeal to empirical means is said to be a priori;  alternately,  "true in all possible worlds".  Kant's famous example is "2 + 2 = 4".  It is generally conceeded that only statements of pure mathematics or logic might be considered a priori

induction (induce)— (tümevarim, özelden geneli çikarir)  The most typical method of reaching conclusions, and according to empiricists, the only means.  The opposite of deductioninduction is the means of inferring some general law from observed phenomena.  Unlike its counterpart, however, induction does not guarantee its own findings, and any further observation might invalidate one's conclusions.

deduction (deduce)--  (tümdengelim, genelden özeli çikarir) The process of deriving one proposition from another proposition or a set of propositions.  If the original propositions, or premises, are true then any conclusions derived from them will also be true.  Compare derivation.  Contrast induction.


IDEALISM           x                 POSITIVISM (empiricism, materialism)

Pure                                         Empirical

A priori                                    A posteriori

deduction                                 induction


MODERNISM                       POSTMODERNISM

Models, Neutrality                   Pluralism, Identity, Legibility

City as machine, model            City as text, collage

Environmental Determinism       Environmental Psychology