Customer Review

110 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The psychology of urban designs, December 22, 1999
This review is from: The Image of the City (Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies Series) (Paperback)
This book describes mental maps obtained from residents in several cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Jersey City. The mental maps were materialized on paper through an interview process and combined with maps from many individuals. And the results are surprising. Each map is a composite image of the city (and hence, the book's title) that reveals not only the character of the place, but gives you a feeling for it. In Boston for example, the streets are very disorganized, so people give directions by using landmarks almost exclusively. On the other hand, in Jersey City, with extremely uniform architecture, directions are given by street number and points of the compass. An unusual discovery concerns very long streets in Boston. They appear on the map with missing sections - these sections are totally invisible to the people interviewed. In many cases individuals were unaware that Washington street in one neighborhood is a continuation of Washington Street in another neighborhood. These blind spots affect how people move around, it affects the directions they give to others and it contributes or reinforces fears they may have about certain neighborhoods. The book moves from these maps and observations and tries to develop rules of thumb for urban design. People feel more comfortable and perhaps more anchored if they know where they are in space and in relation to visible landmarks. Some cities provide this comfort level more effectively than others - this book tries to find root causes. It's no wonder this is a classic.
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