Experiential Layers Of The City

Bruce Donnelly explores a new way to examine city life that could increase the effectiveness of urban design.
April 20, 2006, 11am PDT | David Gest
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"We usually look at familiar urban places as our habits dictate, rarely changing from our default viewpoint. We shop, go to work, go out for the eveningâ€"hardly thinking about how we think about the interaction of beauty, people's stories, and the ways people represent themselves.

This narrowed perspective limits our effectiveness as designers, planners, and citizens. By consciously cultivating the skill to switch between ways of thinking about places, we can notice and compare those layers, as well as how they do or do not comport with the circumstances at hand.

There are, of course, many different experiential layers to urban experience. However, three essential layers, in an effective order, are:

  • Beauty
  • Stories
  • Representation

    Once we learn to pay attention, we can combine the layers with the circumstances of a particular situation to decide, say, whether the beauty of a place and the stories of its lives mesh."

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    Published on Saturday, April 15, 2006 in Terrain.org
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