Month: April 2014

04/30: Image of the City

One of the first reading assignments I had in architecture was Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City (PDF link to the intro and chapter 4). A few quotes from his introduction explain the focus of his studies. “This book will assert that legibility is crucial in the city setting.” How does the general public, or a group of citizens, absorb the city around them and create coherent mental images or structures, a diagram of the city. The book was published in 1960 and represents research conducted from the five years prior. It is hard to say on initial glance how broad a cross section of citizens were interviewed for the book. The quotes below show an interesting mix of searching for clues from the general public, and understanding how imagery can manipulate those same masses of people.

“Environmental images are the result of a two-way process between the observer and his environment. The environment suggests distinctions and relations, and the observer-with great adaptability and in the light of his own purposes-selects, organizes, and endows with meaning what he sees.”

“…the “public images,” the common mental pictures carried by large numbers of a city’s inhabitants: areas of agreement which might be expected to appear in the interaction of a single physical reality , a common culture, and a basic physiological nature.”

“Group images of meaning are less likely to be consistent at this level than are the perceptions of entity and relationship. Meaning, moreover, is not so easily influenced by physical manipulation as are these other two components [identity and structure]. If it is our purpose to build cities for the enjoyment of vast numbers of people of widely diverse background-and cities which will also be adaptable to future purposes-we may even be wise to concentrate on the physical clarity of the image and to allow meaning to develop without our direct guidance.”

“Since image development is a two-way process between observer and observed, it is possible to strengthen the image either by symbolic devices, by the retraining of the perceiver, or by reshaping one’s surroundings. You can provide the viewer with a symbolic diagram of how the world fits together: a map or a set of written instructions. As long as he can fit reality to the diagram, he has a clue to the relatedness of things.”


04/29: Sketching the Detail

More sketches from the “Design Thinking” sketching/field trip class. The first shows an adjustable connection to a modern piece of furniture, in this case a clamp as part of a free standing lamp. The second sketch is of a hand rail detail at the John Paul II Center in Northeast DC. Both drawings make use of the exploded isometric view, showing elements pulled away from their normal positions to allow a better understand of all components and their means of connection.

Furniture Joint JPII Center Furniture Joint

The term ‘axonometric’ is often used, but refers to drawings which include an accurate representation of the object in plan view, while isometric drawings distorts the plan to make things look a bit more ‘natural’. A much, much better explanation of the difference can be found in this image. Both links are to the

04/28: Sketches from Undergrad

In undergrad at CUArch students used to take a sketching field trip class during the first semester of their second year. (The program has since been reshuffled a few times, it is hard to tell which classes have changed and which have simply had their names changed.) The ambiguously titled “Design Thinking” had Eric Jenkins take students around Washington DC to sketch specific buildings and spaces. I hope I still have that sketchbook, but until I find it I have a few scans, one from the Washington Islamic Center on Massachusetts Ave, and the other from the Scottish Rite Temple on 16th St.

Threshold Scottish Rite Temple

04/27: Reality Check

Studio wraps up in a week of a half. One thing I am trying to keep in mind is the small vignette of life in Dhaka afforded to me during my week there. It isn’t enough, it never is, but every reminder of the reality on the ground there helps. Here is a matter of 15 seconds documented in photographs, showing a road crew repave a street. There is a lot of life, a lot of toxicity, a lot to try to remember.


04/26: Temple of the Tides of Time

As final projects and presentations descend upon me these posts will include more past work. Today I look at a project from 2007, a wonderful design/build opportunity to construct a park installation in Belmullet, Ireland. The studio was run by Travis Price, an architect working in Washington DC. There were about 11 people in the class and perhaps 14 people on the construction site. From a portfolio I did in December 2007:

spsd 1spsd 2

I believe these photos are courtesy of Travis Price Architects:

Copy of DSC_0393_resize Temple of Times Tides - Blemullet_7_resize Temple of Times Tides - Blemullet_6_resize


04/24: Defining Belmont

In West Philadelphia the Belmont neighborhood is defined by Lancaster Ave to the south, 40th St to the east, Belmont Ave to the west and the Septa tracks to the north. These four borders give definition to a place and a neighborhood. Depending on who you ask, this area could be considered part of Mantua, and is part of the recently (January 2014) announced Promise Zone, a new government program trying to improve neighborhoods by fast tracking applications for federal grants and loans. As someone who has never lived in or really spent time in Belmont, I can only judge how badly it needs improvement based on articles (“City officials and neighborhood leaders say the area is poor and crime-ridden” from the Philadelphia Inquirer) and maps of various statistics (income, education, long term residents, transit usage shown below).

Median Household Income   Highschool DropoutsPre 1969 ResidentPublic Transit Commute

What are alternative ways to represent the neighborhood? (A specific example could be adapting the ‘popsicle index’ mentioned yesterday into the ‘apple index’ as a way of assessing access to healthy foods.) Programs like StoryCorps offer a spoken narrative (often of life events and not specifically places), coming to communities to interview two or three individuals. How would you rate a neighborhood, or better yet your neighborhood? What do you value, and what do your surroundings have to offer? It is a sensitive question as its wording can easily become leading. But the idea of many people coming forward with their vision of what a good neighborhood is and how their neighborhood stacks up could offer a better idea of what exactly needs ‘improving’ in any particular place.