One more book to read: Kevin Lynch The Image of the City, 1961
I spent the afternoon on Friday reading Adrian Forty’s Words and Buildings. In the book there is a diagram from Kevin Lynch called “Form Qualities of the City” in which he simplifies our visual world to nine different illustrations. To Lynch and other urbanists concerned with the lack of intelligibility of our cities, form was the property that would overcome the alienation of modern cities. Not sure if I understand exactly how, but Forty writes “Interest in ‘form’ as the means of resisting the effects of mass culture and of urbanization have been recurrent throughout the twentieth century”. I think I’m onto something here because this is exactly what I’m interested in studying, but I need to read his book to understand completely.
I am halfway through reading The Experience of Place by Tony Hiss. It’s helped to open my eyes to all of the senses that create a feeling of atmosphere. For example smells, sounds, climate, angles of buildings (where patterns emerge), how sunlight creates space (relates to height of buildings) are all factors that contribute to our experience of place. Also something I would like to explore is to show how a space could be altered with significant changes – this could be the project where I remove all remnants of branding or signage from storefronts and examine how that changes the experience.
Naturally tied in with this experience is the awareness of previous uses and flows, and historical changes. This education could naturally create interest in the preservation of authenticity of a place. For example, the sensory experience of Grand Central station contributed to it’s preservation when the city wanted to tear it down in the 70’s. Also, the loss of Penn station before that was the driving force behind the creation of the Historical landmark commission in New York City.
My biggest challenge in all of this is to sift through the massive amount of information I’m encountering. I’m reading so much in my Seminar class that I haven’t been able to read as much as I would like for thesis. I think Kevin Lynch is exactly the jumping off point I needed, because my point of view is coming from two different areas and it seems like he marries those points of view. They are: 1. the rejection of speed and consumerism of our culture and preservation of authenticity of place. or at least awareness of historical and cultural context in development and signage. 2. Uncovering hidden forms, patterns and relationships in our surroundings and how these discoveries contribute to the atmosphere of a place.
We read a lot of Herbert Muschamp’s architecture criticism for Seminar this week, and I was interested in his differentiation between context and adjacency when discussing The New Museum. He writes that the New Museum’s roots are deep in Soho and thus the structure represents large raw loft spaces, but it’s location is firmly on the border of Soho and the Lower East side. There is no awareness of it’s place in a rich and layered historical neighborhood (the neighborhood I learned about from Charlie Cohen) apparent in the building’s white-walled interior or exterior of galvanized zinc. It is located directly next to the Bowery Mission and Salvation army, which has been housing, feeding and clothing the homeless and destitute since the late 1800’s. I wonder what the interaction is between these two institutions, the employees and visitors. I also wonder what Muschamp believed are the differences between context and adjacency?
On Wednesday night last week I walked from one end of Rivington street to the other with a tape recorder to capture the feeling of atmosphere at different junctures. I found it really interesting that there were three distinct atmospheres on this one street, and I am exploring the reasons why. This is the sketch of the documentation map I created. I wanted to capture all of the interactions, places and details that create the atmosphere of a neighborhood.