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4.2 Settlement form

According to Lynch (1981: 48), settlement form includes both the spatial arrangement of acting people, and the spatial flows resulting from that--plus the physical features modifying space. Asking 'What makes a good city?' Lynch analyses the features of settlement form. His intention is to create a general normative theory of good city form, an aim that differs from the descriptive one I have taken in this study. However, Lynch states that any general theory about the city must integrate value statements with ones of objective relationships. He gathers these relationships under five dimensions of performance (Lynch 1981: 117).

These five dimensions are in Lynch's theory 'the inclusive measures of settlement quality'. The first of them, vitality, is settlement's ability to support the biological requirements and capabilities of human being. Sense is the degree of how clearly the settlement can be perceived and structured. Fit is a measure of the behaviour settings: how the settlement form matches with actions of people. Access is the ability of reaching different elements that are needed or desired to be reached, and the quantity and diversity of them. The last dimension is control, the degree to which the space is controlled by the people who use it. Lynch adds two meta-criteria, efficiency and justice, which, according to him, 'are always appended to any list of good things'. These two criteria are, however, involved in all the five basic dimensions (Lynch 1981: 118-119).

All the dimensions listed can be further divided into sub-dimensions. The components of vitality are sustenance, safety, and consonance. Sustenance is the degree describing the supply of food, energy, water, and air, and disposal of wastes. Safety is the absence, or control, of hazards. Consonance describes how spatial environment responds to the biological needs of human beings, e.g. maintenance of internal temperature, supporting natural rhythms of sleeping and waking, or alertness and inattention, and providing adequate but not too excessive sensory input. Overall, vitality is the dimension with closest connections to the biological nature of human beings. Therefore, if not always too obvious, it is the dimension of which it is easiest to give any value statements (Lynch 1981: 121-122).

Sense of settlement form is connected with a wide variety of different matters. It involves the aspects of identity and structure that allow recognizing and patterning of space and time. It involves also aspects that connect the settlement form with other features of life. Congruence is the formal match of environmental structure and features of a society. Lynch gives us examples, like the match between residential buildings and preferred residential features, or the intensity of city form corresponding with intensity of activity. Transparency is the degree of perceiving different technical, social and natural activities and processes that occur within the settlement, e.g. seeing people working, or hearing the waves striking the shore. The degree of an inhabitant's ability to communicate with each other using symbolic physical features of settlement is legibility. This dimension, according to Lynch, is 'often unintelligible to the cultural stranger' (Lynch 1981: 138-141).

Fit is a degree of matching between the spatial and temporal pattern of settlement form and the behaviour of people living there. Therefore, it appears differently in different cultures. It is easiest to notice when it is absent, for '[m]ismatch is relatively easy to spot.' Its elementary aspect is quantitative adequacy of the physical environment for pursuing desired operations. Nevertheless, fit has also a qualitative aspect. It can be identified by observing whether or not people can execute the actions they attempt. However, people can adjust their behaviour to match it with the place--even more often than the other way round. Mismatches will therefore normally lessen within reasonable time scale. In spite of this, degree of fit may still keep varying between different groups of people and their behaviour in using places (Lynch 1981: 151-160).

The function of the city as a focus of transportation and communication has sometimes been seen as the major feature of urban system. Access to other people, human activities, material resources, different places, and information is one of the dimensions of performance in Lynch's theory. Access is not distributed equally, and people of different age, sex, or social status usually have different spatial ranges. Access has a cost, and different people can afford different costs. However, increased mobility does not always mean increased access. Access also varies over time.

There are various modes of access. A street is a mode which transmits people using different kinds of vehicles or walking, goods, and information. On the contrary, in gas pipes only gas is carried. Some modes are one-way, some two-way. Measuring access is not only measuring the quantity of accessible elements, but also their diversity. However, it is not easy to measure, because what is similar and what is not depends on the perception of the one observing (Lynch 1981: 187-193).

Human space is always regulated in some manner. There are different rights that people either have or do not have in a particular place. 'The first spatial right' is that of presence. The second one is the right to use the facilities of place. These are common rights in public places. One has, for instance, the right to be present in a public park, to walk there, sit on a bench and do other things that do not restrict any other's rights of doing the same. As far as public places are concerned, one does not have a right of appropriation, i.e. to prevent others using it. If one owns the place, the situation is different. In that case, one usually also has the right of modification and that of disposition, so that it is possible to change the features of place, or let someone else do it. All these rights, however, are regulated everywhere by laws and cultural norms.

Control is often visible more or less explicitly in the physical environment of place. Boundaries of territories might be marked by hedges, fences, or signs. Restricting visibility is another means of reinforcing control, or, on the contrary, increasing visibility. Peculiarly effective this is when visibility is increased one way and decreased the other way, creating a situation of one-way visibility. Control can be reinforced also by manipulating access, i.e. by creating barriers, and increasing access between some places and decreasing it between others in aligning the traffic network (Lynch 1981: 205-213).

In his earlier work Lynch (1960) presents his theory of imageability. The degree of sense--especially its feature of structure--seems to me as a more developed form of this theory. According to Lynch (1960: 10), a highly imageable city is one which is well formed, distinct, and remarkable. It is a city where it is easy to move because one is well oriented there. As examples of cities of this kind, Lynch gives Venice and Manhattan.

In the theory of imageability the elements of the city image are paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. Paths are channels of moving, and the other elements are arranged along them. Edges are linear elements like paths but not used as paths by the one who is observing. They are boundaries that separate different phases. Districts are identifiable sections of the city. Nodes are strategic points in the city structure, the foci of interaction. They are often situated in the junctions of paths. Nodes are related also to districts since the intensive foci of the districts are one type of nodes. Finally, landmarks are distinctive physical objects which help people to orientate in the city. Isolated towers are a paradigmatic example of these kinds of elements, but not the only one. Landmarks can also be outside the city area, like a mountain in the distance. On the other hand, they can be very local like trees or some distinctive signs (Lynch 1960: 47-48).

Anne Stenros (1992: 63) criticizes Lynch's theory of imageability for not explaining how the different elements are related to each other or to the space, and for its concentration only to the visible elements of the city. This is certainly true to some extent, but in his theory of settlement form (Lynch 1981) Lynch achieves a more coherent and more wide insight into the city. The lack of profound elaboration of spatial aspects in his theories, however, remains a weakness.

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