Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session

Kevin Lynch’s landmark volume, The Image of the City (1960), emphasized the perceptual characteristics of the urban environment, stressing the ways that individuals mentally organize their own sensory experience of cities. Increasingly, however, city imaging is supplemented and constructed by exposure to visual media, rather than by direct sense experience of urban realms. City images are not static, but subject to constant revision and manipulation by a variety of media-savvy individuals and institutions. In recent years, urban designers (and others) have used the idea of city image proactively– seeking innovative ways to alter perceptions of urban, suburban, and regional areas. City imaging, in this sense, is the process of constructing visually-based narratives about the potential of places.

This media-enriched image-building process involves not only place-based and form-based visions but also strategies for economic opportunity and environmental stewardship. Place promotion transcends economics-grounded efforts to attract new investment; it is also a strategy for reinforcing (or reconstructing) city image. As such, it always matters who builds these images, for which reasons, and for whom. Image-building efforts encompass not only changes to the built environment but also encode broad conceptual orientations; image-making is about finding new ways (and new technologies) to represent and promote cleaner environments, better communities, and socio-economic progress, yet images may also serve to mask or perpetuate existing inequalities. Images may be promoted in service of some broad “public good,” but they are also subject to extreme manipulation by market forces that resist any such wider efforts to plan.

The Colloquium and the Seminar

This is a seminar for advanced graduate students held in conjunction with the 1998 DUSP Faculty Colloquium on “Imaging the City.” For the Colloquium, we have commissioned papers from a variety of scholars and designers, and asked them to explore emerging directions for city imaging, issues that seem to bridge the concerns of physical planners, media professionals, and city developers in ways that affect planning practice throughout the United States and abroad. The first few sessions of the Colloquium examine the interconnections between urban development and media, while the second half identifies arenas where urban designers and planners can intervene to help re-image cities in positive ways, as well as methods by which such involvement can take place.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 1998