On Interaction between the City and the Language(s): Individual to Society
Affordances in the Construction of the City’s Language(S)David Uzzell
Environmental psychology seeks to provide a holistic account of the environment where the meaning captures the symbiotic relationship between the individual and their physical surroundings. If we are to achieve this, we need to understand how the environment ‘speaks’ to us and how we ‘read’ and interpret our environmental interactions. This paper begins by suggesting a model for understanding the relationships between environmental conditions, our psychological response to the environment, and how these might be mediated by the presence of other people. This is illustrated with two case studies from the UK, in which it is demonstrated that when a residential neighborhood is seen to be a high risk one in terms of crime, the perceived social order – either by the presence of the police or even by the types of residents who live there - mediates the messages communicated by the physical environment. The paper concludes by demonstrating that the physical environment provides ‘affordances’ which are the perceived physical qualities of a place that have the potential to facilitate people’s physical and social activities. Affordances can be used by architects and landscape architects to not only reduce or design out crime, but also create social spaces that encourage people to use and enjoy the city.