Inside The Mind Of An Urbanist
When walking down the city, towards your destination, have you ever wondered who thought about that side walk you’re running over? Those trees; why they were the most favoured ones to be repeated along the whole city? Have you ever recorded your feelings and insights towards a particular area you’ve had a business to finish there or went to see a friend in his house? Have you ever felt so good while walking and you just didn’t know why and thought it was a good day?
Well, it is an urban planner’s job to carefully plan and manage to execute these little details that shape your day. He can make you walk comfortably down the street or make you curse the whole universe for contributing to ruin your day for an unknown reason. Yet, we’re not talking today about that job of his and how well he does it. Instead, we are going to talk about the senses you’ve developed and trained throughout your whole life; the senses within your bones and flesh that let you discover the city and in turn, you become what you feel. The city marks your whole existence and shapes your thoughts, beliefs and even your affiliations can be controlled by how the city is planned.
To begin with, researches have been conducted to see how cities influence people. A researcher once changed the course of city design when he decided to give people a map, and asked them how they saw their city. Which parts they loved, which parts they hated and know more about how they navigated through the city and their way of finding the process, was it easy or hard.
This research explained a lot and changed how designers think. It shifted the design thinking from mere shapes and geometry that appeals to the eyes to design that take into consideration peoples’ behaviours, cognitive processes and their decision making.
A fundamental pillar of the design was the human senses. The primary senses are sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing.
Starting with sight, in addition to seeing right in front of you and deciding your next step, you plan ahead to your destination, mark it with a landmark whether it is a tall tower, a tree or a certain bookshop around the corner so you’ll know you’ve arrived. As well as managing to measure the height of the surrounding buildings and the distance between you and the next person walking, this makes you feel either enclosed in the space or lost in its immensity and superiority. Some spaces like temples are designed to be huge to make you feel very small and weak in front of God. Subsequently, you will feel the need to his power and pray with honesty.
As for the touch, you might not be able to touch everything you walk by with your fingers. Yet, touch makes amends for people who lost sight. Rough ground patterns are made in streets and sidewalks to mark certain areas and thereby blind people can walk in the city without frequent help.
This contributes to the safety and tranquillity of inhabitants.
The next two senses are more common with markets and places full of coffee shops and restaurants. You feel hungry when you pass by an inviting smell of a bakery that uses that breath-taking smell as a marketing strategy to bring buyers. That mouthwatering coffee shop that brews coffee next to it makes a perfect match for a fresh day started going to college or work.
Hearing is an exciting sense too. You either feel burdened by the daily traffic noise if you live in a house overlooking an active street with vehicles hovering all day long or enjoy the peacefulness of water purling when you sit next to a fountain enjoying the beautiful weather while reading a book. Even if parks are not widespread in our country, yet we hear a lot of different things. A remarkable thing is how you got used to hearing that voice of the street vendor selling his goods in the early morning.
However, the feelings you develop doesn’t stop at your senses, it extends to your memories of the place. This reveals the human individuality. You’ve certainly encountered many changes in your life in different places of the city.
Remember the first girl you liked and noticed on that street. And that dark poorly lit street where you got robbed. That old lady sitting on the balcony of the outdated building, she was watching everything. Remember the playground of your school… and many more places. You’ve bonded with the places you interact with to the extent that you know the people and would notice their absence if you don’t find them the next day.
Each place made a difference in your life. Whether you’ve noticed it or not, certainly you are the reflection of the city that you lived in the most. That’s why people are different.
The next time you visit an old place, pay attention to the details. Listen closely to the sounds you got used to. Follow your instincts to the unknown; discover new hidden details in old places you’ve been to.
Record your feelings and see how the city has shaped your inner self. Discover the city within your bones.