Concepts of Urban Design

August 29, 2017 | Author: Sonu Rai | Category: Urban Design, Perception, Concept, Scientific Method, Reality
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ITPI JOURNAL 4 : 1 (2007) 70 - 72



Reader, Department of Architecture, MITS, Gwalior ABSTRACT

This paper is a brief review of research studies in the field of urban morphology with respect to human perceptions. It briefly overviews the elements and concepts of urban morphology with specific reference to imageability in perception studies. The author is of the opinion that primary research studies in the field of image perception in Indian cities are marginal denying conclusive research proof to urban design concepts and superimposing western concepts of urban planning and theories without acknowledging ground realities of socio-cultural patterns and racial differences in perception, globalization notwithstanding, is self defeating.

1 INTRODUCTION Vitruvius described urban design as essentially an ethical endeavor inspired by the vision of public art and architecture. Every town, city or urban region whatever its inherent natural characteristics of site and terrain and man made problems has a potential which stems from its own natural form, sense of place, sense of history, spirit and ethos. It urges us never to forget man’s fundamental yearning for the beauty of nature and a respect when he reshapes it for his use (Blessing, 1966).

People perceive a city in different ways and each city has a public image which is the overlap of many individual images. Imageability in a city may be said to be more a perceptual concept than a physical or visual entity. It is the interpretation of various layers of a city’s images - its form, profile and experiences over a period of time. Imageability refers to the probability that an environment will evoke a strong image from observers. Imageability is probably the single most important factor in the identity of a place (Lynch, 1960). 2

PIONEER STUDIES IN URBAN DESIGN Urban design as a specialized branch of architecture emerged from the pioneering works especially since the 1960s. Imageability is a prime factor of study in urban morphology, urban geography and urban design. Camillo Sitte (18431903) can be said to be the pioneer of a humanistic approach to urban design in the modern age. His text (1889) based on a rigorous analytical study of the perception of urban space can be said to be the best text of modern urban design theory. The concepts of proportions, vista in public squares were analytically dealt with the documentation of numerous examples in history. It opposed the technocratic attitude of the engineers and traffic planners and emphasized the

psychological and philosophical approach to perception of form and space. Paul Zucker (1959) emphasized space and its representation as central to understanding architecture and urbanism. He focused on the urban square as central to urban space and has done a thorough spatial analysis and categorization of squares. His analysis of traditional squares as space and squares in modernistic planning as voids shows the lacunae in urban design in modern planning.

Generally, the approaches in architecture and urban design have been more speculative than based on a scientific approach. Kevin Lynch (1960) pioneered a scientific approach to urban design studying and analysed the components of urban design parameters and human evaluation. He put forth the image of the city as a concept which can be perceived, evaluated and changed. His seminal work lay in identifying basic elements of an image of a city and in introducing a technique of image analysis as the basis of a plan for a future visual form of the city. His work was based on American cities. In his words, the image analysis may differ with other cultures or other races. Later work in architectural research, landscape architecture, environmental psychology has dealt with specific studies in perception studies and cognitive maps in America and Central America (Potter, 1984). Ulrich Neisser (1967) in laying the ground of cognitive psychology defined iconic memory as the visual sensory memory. Jane Jacobs (1961), one of the most serious critics of modernist planning, defended traditional neighborhoods, lively street life and crowded pedestrian sidewalks. She emphasized the need to understand cities in terms of combinations or mixtures of uses rather than separate land uses. She stressed on diversity as a measure of urban vitality and put forth some indispensable

Sanjay S. Jadon / ITPI Journal 4 : 1 (2007) 70 - 72

conditions to generate diversity in urban space. Gordon Cullen (1961) in townscape brought forth the relationships between the building and external spaces in the urban context. He stressed on the subjective values in relationships of elements visà-vis the observer. Tricart (1963) deals with the concept of scale and place in the study of social content of the city. Spreiregen (1964) has expanded the work of Lynch in terms of detailing a methodology of visual survey and building a vocabulary of working terms in urban design. He extended the vocabulary of urban form to aspects such as landform, natural verdure, climate, size and density, pattern grain and texture and their classification. The concepts of optics, relative place and content are highlighted. Hall (1966) developed his theory of proxemics with the precept that human perceptions of space are molded and patterned by culture. He defined personal space and social distance which varies widely with cultural origins.

building in the urban design theory. Alice Coleman’s (1985) work on Design Dis-advantagement carried forward Oscar Newman’s premises on crime and architectural design. Wayne Attoe (1989) has discussed the catalyst theory in terms of urban elements in practical urban design. Spiro Kostof (1992) has provided a detailed documentation of elements of urban design in world history. Scheer B.L. has reviewed the issues of perception of citizens with respect to physical surroundings. Lalli Marco (1992) has developed a framework for urban related identity and introduced a urban identity scale. Nasar J.L. (1997) has dealt extensively with methodological issues in evaluative studies of spaces. He has dealt extensively with evaluation of the image of the city with particular application to open spaces and crime prevention. Ramadier Thierry and Moser G. (1998) studied the field experimentation the concept of legibility within an urban space with respect to two cultural groups. Their results have shown that the characteristics of environmental meanings depend upon cultural origins of the perceiver. The New Urbanism (2001) movement advocated since 1993 espouses re-establishing the relationship between art of building and community building through participatory planning and design. Nahoum Cohen (2002), working with heritage precincts, proposes a conservation potential matrix as a tool. He espousing urban conservation has worked on creating an urban profile assessment.

3 FURTHER ANALYTICAL STUDIES Robert Venturi et al (1972) through the study of the image of Las Vegas analysed the vitality of Main Street. Their studies on Las Vegas throw up interesting aspects of image - the value of symbolism and allusion in an urban environment of vast space and speed. Rob Krier (1975) redefines the elements of urban space and its classification. Shadrach Woods (1975), a practicing architect known for mega projects, has attempted in his writings as well as his projects to maintain the cultural continuities of the city while addressing a large canvas of transformations in modern city.

4 IMAGE AND PERCEPTION Perception is a process that uses our previous knowledge together, and interprets the stimuli that our senses register. It is a constant process that operates between man and his environment. The process of perception is responsible for selecting stimuli and arranging them into meaningful patterns. This process is influenced by the internal factors of learning, motivation and personality. The framework of response to sets of stimuli is called the perceptual set (Buchanan and Hucyznski, 1985). Each individual has a personal perceptual set and with it a personal and unique vision of what is out there in the environment. However, groups within the society share features of the perceptual sets and it is this shared set that urban designers address. Cognitive maps are the internal representations of the way our spatial environment is arranged (Ormrod et al, 1988). Most researches have raised the issue that cognitive maps are both

Christopher Alexander et al (1977) have woven in elements of urban design as a pattern language which can be used by an individual, a neighbourhood, a designer or a city planner. William Whyte’s (1980) detailed study on small urban plazas brought forth characteristics of successful urban plazas which showed how or when people used urban common spaces. His studies on urban open spaces and urban plazas in New York brought forward some interesting observations on how people use public spaces and measure of vitality of urban spaces in terms of user density. Aldo Rossi’s (1984) analysis on urban structure is important to the history of urban design. He has stressed the urban themes such as memory and monumentality taking the city as a whole than

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Sanjay S. Jadon / ITPI Journal 4 : 1 (2007) 70 - 72

concepts necessary to back up design decisions in urban planning; and (ii) superimposing western concepts of urban planning and theories without acknowledging ground realities of socio-cultural patterns and racial differences in perception, globalization notwithstanding, is self defeating.

analog and propositional in nature, which means that there is a picture like image of streets as also information such as turn left at the next junction and that building is next to the pink building.

It has been seen that cognitive maps are reasonably accurate and variations of such maps from reality stem from a rational or logical strategy. For example, we think of places in terms of road route distance rather than physical proximity (Mcnamara 1984, 1986), our mental maps are more regular or symmetrical than reality (Maar and Bower, 1983, Tversky and Schian, 1989). Franklin and Twersky (1990) have shown in their research how we create mental maps from verbal descriptions. Their study concluded with the precept that humans follow the spatial framework model in which our conceptions of space is different from our perceptions of space and certain spatial directions are especially prominent in our thinking such as the above or below, front or behind or left or right come later. These studies are based on space models rather than street models. Halt E.D. (1966) developed his theory of proxemics with the precept that human perceptions of space are molded and patterned by culture and that there are differences in the way spaces are perceived among different races.

REFERENCES Alexander C. (1977) A Pattern Language, New York, Oxford University Press. Attoe, W. and Don, L. (1989) American Urban Architecture: Catalysts in Design of Cities, Berkeley, University of California Press. Dongre, R. (1992) Citizen Perception and Urban Planning, A+D, Vol. IX, No. 1, pp. 63--72. Cohen, N. (2002) Urban Conservation, McGraw Hill, London. Cullen, G. (1961) Townscape, Architectural Press, London. Fellman, J.G. and Getis, A. J. (1990) Human Geography, W C Brown Publishers, New York. Hall, E.T. (1966) The Hidden Dimension, New York. Jacobs, J. (1961) The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Random House, New York. Kostof, S. (1991) The City Shaped, Bullfinch Press Boston. Kostof, S. (1992) The City Assembled, Bullfinch Press, Boston. Krier, R. (1979) Urban Spaces, Rizzoli, New York. Krier, R. (1984) Elements of Architecture, A+D Press, London. Lalli, M. (1992) Urban Related Identity: Theory, Measurement and Empirical Findings, Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 12 No 4. pp. 283-303. Lynch, K. (1960) The Image of the City, MIT Press, Massachusetts. Martin, M.W. (1995) Cognition, India, Prism Books. Mohan, I. (1992) Environmental Issues and Urban Development of the Walled Cities, Mittal Publications, Delhi. Morris, C. (1981) Townscape Images: A Study in Meaning. Nasar, J.L. (1998) The Evaluative Image of City, Sage, Oak, California. National Institute of Urban Affairs (1980) Urban ConservationSafeguarding India’s Dying Heritage, National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi. Potter, R. (1985) Urbanisation and Planning in the Third World: Spatial Perceptions and Public Participation, Croom Helm, London. Ramadier, T. and Moser, G. (1998) Social Legibility, the Cognitive Map and Urban Behavior, Journal of Environmental Psychology, Article no ps 980099. Rossi, A. (1984) The Architecture of the City, MIT Press, Massachusetts. Scheer, B.L. Urban Design, A Place in Planning, Planning Commissioners Journal, Article no. 481. Shirodkar, V.A. (2005) Transformations in the Streetscape of Mapusa, Goa, ITPI Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 59-68. Short, J.R. (1984) An Introduction to Urban Geography, Routledge, London. Sitte, C. (Ed.) (1945) The Art of Building Cities, Reinhold Publishing Corporation, London. Spreiregen, P. (1966) Urban Design, McGraw Hill Book Company, New York. Venturi, S. and Izenour (1972) Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press, Massachusetts. Whyte, W. (1980) The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Conservation Foundation, Washington D.C. Woods, S. (1975) The Man in the Street, A Polemic on Urbanism, Penguin Books, Baltimore. Zucker, P. (1970) Town and Square, MIT Press, Massachusetts.

In the Indian context primary research studies on the concept of urban space design have been marginal. Traditional urban spaces have been studied in the documentation studies under various heritage areas of Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mumbai, Jaiselmer, etc. under the aegis of INTACH, etc. Eminent professionals have discussed the images of urban India. I (1992) have explored concepts of urban space, serial vision and skyline within the walled city of Delhi. Dongre (1992) has explored image perception within a small Indian town as a database towards planning process. Shirodkar V.A. (2005) has analysed transformations of specific streetscapes of Goa over a historical period of time. All general studies and researches have emphasized that Indian spaces have certain intrinsic characteristics such as mixed land-use, multi-functional use of urban elements, and community as identifying factors. 5 CONCLUSIONS The basic conclusion drawn from this review are (i) primary research studies in the field of image perception in Indian cities are marginal denying conclusive research proof to urban design


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