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Word Count: 447
A Synopsis of The Image of the City by Kevin Lynch.
The book is mainly about the perceptual form of a city. The book was written after a five-year study of how people orient themselves in three American cities: Boston, Jersey City, and Los Angeles. The orientation here is the mental images formed by the citizens of these cities (Lynch 2). Lynch tries to place focus on the importance of the setting of a city in forming mental maps.
Legibility is the ease in which parts can be recognized and be organized in a coherent pattern (Lynch 3). The ability of mobile animal, in this case the inhabitants of a city, to structure and identify their environment as a way of way-finding is a vital ability (Lynch 3). We form these mental images from both the sensations of the external environment and memories of past experiences. The environmental image itself has three components: structure, identity and meaning. Identity is the uniqueness of the image. Structure is the relationship of the object, the observer and other objects. Meaning is the emotional or practical relation of the object and the observer. Imageability, a factor of legibility together with visibility, of a city are the physical attributes of identity and structure. The relevance of this is to perceive our complex, shifting urban environment in a way that underlines the importance of identity and structure (Lynch 10).
Although we can adapt to any situation, the designing of urban centers to make mental mapping easier is anchored on some elements: path, landmark, edge, node and district (Lynch, 8). Paths are the most important elements as they organize mobility and should thus have a clear origin and destination with landmarks on it (Lynch, 97). Landmarks are the unique things of the city that standout by themselves (Lynch, 101). Edges are breaks in the image or the boundaries by which continuity is broken (Lynch, 100). Nodes are the places that the observer needs to pay careful attention to like junctions. We can also refer to them as conceptual anchor points (Lynch, 102). Districts are areas that have their own identity and can be clustered together. The area has continuous characteristics that are discontinuous elsewhere (Lynch, 103). When designing the city, these elements should be considered as they are the basis by which city inhabitants find routes from place to place (Lynch, 109).
My view is the book is very important as a way of guiding designers of the cities we live in since they grow more and more complex. Urban dwellers should be able to navigate their living spaces with ease irrespective of the fact that they are ever expanding and growing in complexity.
Lynch, Kevin. The Image Of The City. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1960. Print.