The City Image and its Elements
I admire the clarity and organization of this book by Kevin Lynch. The path, which Lynch recognizes as “channels along which the observer customarily, occasionally, or potentially moves,” can be misleading from the image of the city. Particularly, the freeway, which divides and cuts through the city, separating the elements into districts and zones. The freeway makes the subject oblivious to their surrounding; camouflaging the image of the city in place of road signs and traffic. Take for example, the shoreway in Cleveland, which runs from Lakewood through downtown Cleveland. The shoreway portrays this role as a divider. The numerous exits and turns distract the driver from recognizing the city around them. Coming off an exit ramp is “typically a moment of severe disorientation.” As Lynch notes, even familiar drivers show a surprising’ lack of knowledge of the freeway system and its connections in the case with Los Angeles. Another good example is Pittsburgh. I find myself paying close attention to the complex transportation routes and interchanges rather than taking in the image of the city.
My first comment leads to another observation I’ve made in the case of the image of the city. I have noticed, through my experience so far in Cleveland, that the junction, or the place of a break in transportation, has a compelling significance for the city observer. Lynch notes these areas as being nodes into which the observer can enter. As Lynch quotes, “because decisions must be made at junctions, people heighten their attention at such places and perceive nearby elements with more than normal clarity.” I can agree with this statement up to a certain point. I believe that people heighten their attention at these places, but I don’t necessarily believe that they pay closer attention to the nearby elements of the city. A good example is Euclid corridor. As I was observing people walking across Euclid Corridor I noticed that most of their attention was directed toward the traffic and the traffic signals rather than what I would consider the “elements” of the city: the architecture, the buildings, the landscape, the streetscape, and the people. Euclid corridor seems to serve its purpose: it interrupts the thoughts in your brain if only for a moment and portrays that junction point that Lynch notes as a structural unit dividing the city.
Camillo Sitte and “The Art of Building Cities”
Sitte notes the importance of the public square in ancient times and how modern planners and designers lack the ability to maintain that same degree of importance with cities today. Cities no longer have distinct character. Merging ideas and motifs from various cities creates cities that are mingled in character. It would be interesting to compare Colin Rowe and “Collage Cities” with Camillo Sitte. According to Sitte, as a result of “Collage Cities,” local characteristics are gradually disappearing. In comparison, Rowe proposes a city which can accommodate a whole range of utopias in miniature.
The Soaring Twenties
This excerpt recognizes a theme, whether or not the author intended to or not, that I have studied most recently and that is the theme of “individualism vs. collectivism,” not in politics but within a man’s soul. This theme is most portrayed in the field of architecture because, as Bascomb mentions, “man wanted to make his mark on the world, and the structures he built became a statement of self.” During the time that this book was written, America was going through a dramatic change in Architecture, among many other things. The switch from a classical style of architecture to a more modern style received much criticism. A classical representation was considered a collective motif; one that reflected the conservative values of society. The modern style portrayed individuality in the sense that it only conformed to the needs of a select few architects. Individualism can be attributed to tall buildings, like Bascomb makes clear in his book. “The Woolworth Building was going to be like a giant signboard to advertise around the world [my] spreading chain of five-and-ten cent-stores.” But lets face it, we find satisfaction in the idea that our buildings are a reflection of ourselves and so why should we be anything but autonomous thinkers; not molded playthings of “social conditioning.”
New York, New York: How the Apartment House Transformed the Life of the City
As little as I know about New York City, this reading helped me recognize the impact it had on the rest of the America. Although the apartment house was an old European way of life, many Americans saw it as a vision of the future, and there lies the difference. The apartment house helped reconnect the city that was once a series of separate households, as most suburban areas are today. A new community of interests was established, promising a new sociality. Planners began designing residential blocks rather than individual buildings; complexes rather than units. It was this type of change that made people evolve from European to an American way: we are innovators to our own success, we learn from our own mistakes and other countries will learn from us.
Brandon E. Young