Explorations in City Image: An Investigation of Tools of Perception and Representation in Urban Design

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Virginia Tech

The map is vitally important for space design. Maps allow designers to record and filter impossibly complex information about an environment. Designers try to capture a variety of aspects of a site through the use of graphic tools like maps and drawings. While there is a long-established conventional graphic language for recording characteristics of a site, this language is often inadequate when one attempts to explore and capture subtler perceptual qualities of urban environments. Many of these perceptual qualities can greatly inform a design and some designers have invented creative mapping strategies to record and analyze difficult aspects of a site. This position paper follows the work of innovative designers who creatively map perceptual qualities of urban landscapes. The theories and practices of these designers have informed my development of new creative tools for mapping my perception of space.

The design portion of this thesis takes place in the Mexican War Streets Neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and results in a plaza for the local Mattress Factory Art Museum. The design phase uses and evaluates traditional perception and representational tools of urban design. New creative maps are used to express what the traditional tools cannot. These creative maps are used to derive the concept for the site design as well as the design of the major site elements and materials.

Urban Design, Derive, Cognitive Mapping, Creative Mapping