Arif B Sholihah

Rethinking Urban Image

December 1st, 2008 · 11 Comments

It was just last night I have a chat with a friend. We’re talking about my master thesis. He specifically asks about my “intentions” on that study. Well, all I can say is, it is all about URBAN IMAGE. As far as I know from all literature written in urban design, or city planning, there are 2 poles in talking about this issue. First is Lynchian supporter. As we know that Kevin Lynch sometimes in 60s had an idea to ask American people about memorable features they first notice in their city. Lynch experiment has deliver 5 most memorable features people first notice, first is PATH, or channel of movement, second is NODE or junction, third is LANDMARK or city monument, forth is DISTRICT, and the last is EDGE, could be river, or city wall. Those five elements have grown very popular amongst urban planner and they started to consider Lynch finding as an urban theory.

The other pole is Rapoportian. Amos Rapoport in the 70s as he also points out about Lynch finding, try to add some other memorable features in city, which have contribution in building urban image. He mentioned about human activities in the city. Rapoport believes that the life of city streets has giving the city “spirit”. He further in late 80s specifically mentioned about Indian cities, which he stated, as I quote:

“India is a fine example of the effects of culture on the streets use. There, the streets provide a setting for what seems to be a bewildering variety of activities and correspondingly diverse sounds, smells and sights. A confusing mixture of animals, people, bicycles, rickshaws, trucks and buses moves continuously. Activities are intermingled at an extraordinarily fine grain and in close juxtaposition. The streets are full of a great variety of people in all sorts of costumes, not only walking and riding but standing, sitting, squatting and lying down; sleeping, cooking, eating, getting their hair cut or getting shaved; doing laundry, fixing bicycles or tires, manufacturing things, sewing, playing, chanting, arguing, bargaining and - even praying.”

According to Rapoport, urban public life is very important to a city, as also another urbanist Jane Jacobs (1961) amazingly states:

“Think of a city and what comes to mind? It is the streets. If a city’s streets look interesting the city looks interesting; if they look dull, the city looks dull.”

At least, those two poles, as far as I concern for at least from my undergrad to my postgrad about Urban Image, it is always Lynchian or Rapoportian. Well, I will not attack those two poles, but, just now, by accident, I saw a foreign movie. A Turkish movie, called A Touch of Spice, at Metro TV. I will not talking about the movie story, but there is something about this movie, which struck me the most.

It is about how a person thinks about a city, specifically Istanbul or Constantinople (during Roman Empire). Well, as we know Istanbul is rich of architectural legacy, which grown into city Landmarks, namely Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and those monumental minarets scattered all over the city air. Those landmarks, labyrinth paths, and other physical features of historic Istanbul are become meaningless in this movie without MEMORY ABOUT A PERSON.

The memory, which taken place in an old shop house about his childhood friend and a grandpa, has haunted him desperately. After decades, which finally this man successfully comeback to that place has liven up all his memory about this city. It is only about a small Spice shop house, but for this man, it is all about his life. The memory never run away from him, but at the other side, it is strongly influence his life path forever. And more than that, he remembers Istanbul by his memories and moments that he had with his loved one, even it only happened during his short childhood before he had to be deported to Greece.

So, now I have another opinion about what sort of features that build an urban image. This is more than about those physical features. Those tangible features can be nothing, without our own feelings or emotional touch that we have about a place. It is all about meaning, a sense of place. www.wikipedia.com, printed out, sense of place refers to:

“Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or peoples. Places said to have a strong "sense of place" have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors. Sense of place is a social phenomenon that exists independently of any one individual's perceptions or experiences, yet is dependent on human engagement for its existence. Such a feeling may be derived from the natural environment, but is more often made up of a mix of natural and cultural features in the landscape, and generally includes the people who occupy the place. The sense of place may be strongly enhanced by the place being written about by poets and novelists, or portrayed in art or music, and more recently, through modes of codification in ordinances aimed at protecting, preserving and enhancing places felt to be of value (such as the "World Heritage Site" designations used around the world, the English "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" controls and the like). “

Well, if you find this movie, please watch it and share your opinion with me…

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11 responses so far ↓

  • Aliah // Dec 15th 2008 at 5:54 am

    Wah, Al belom pernah nonton filmnya, Bu... Hehehehe...
    Menurut Al begini (kalo ada salah diperbaiki, yah, Bu. Secara orang yang baru masuk kota, hehe).
    Semuanya berawal dari 'bagaimana menciptakan sebuah ruang'. Ruang tidak hanya sekedar space tapi lebih ke place. Ternyata sebagai urban desainer punya tanggung jawab yang besar tidap menarik garis, dan itu enggak mudah, yah, Bu (pengalaman studio yang penuh perdebatan dengan dosen sampe harus rubah ini dan itu, bisa mati syahid Aliah gara2 ngelembur gag karu2an. Yah, jadi curhat deh).
    Tapi, baguslah, dapet ilmu baru. Kota itu didesain oleh manusia dan untuk manusia itu sendiri. Jadi kalo kotanya jelek yah manusianya yang rugi. Di studio belajar menggabungkan unsur fisik ma non fisiknya. Belajar pake teori Kevin Lynch plus 'menciptakan' aktivitas di dalemnya. Huek, komplek skali... Dengan kondisi fisik yang oke, berarti stimulus2 untuk memancing orang2 berkegiatan di luar rumah. Nah, kalo suasananya juga sudah oke, rame, bikin hati jadi senang, aman dan nyaman, tentunya bakalan ada sebuah 'kenagan' yang tersimpan dalam ingatan. Dan dengan kenangan itulah ornag2 ingin kembali ke kota tersebut (halah, ngomong mah gampang, prakteknya di studio susahnya naujubileh, Bu). Teori sense of place ini ada hubungannya dengan townscape po, Bu?

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  • oscar // Aug 24th 2014 at 5:44 pm

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  • Philip // Aug 26th 2014 at 12:55 pm

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