The book’s title is ‘The Concise Townscape,’ and Gordon Cullen is the author. He was a well-known urban planner and architect from England who played a significant role in the townscape movement. Cullen introduced a novel theory and approach to urban visual analysis and design founded on the psychology of perception, including human perceptions of time and space and the need for visual stimulation. The Concise Townscape is the name given to later versions of Townscape. Through this book, he significantly contributed to the Townscape’s structure. 

The Architectural Press initially released the book’s First Edition in 1961, and Elsevier Ltd. owns the copyright. The idea of Townscape was invented in this work. Townscape is the visual arrangement and coherence of the urban environment’s chaotic collection of structures, roadways, and open areas. It has had a significant impact on those who are concerned with the design of cities, such as architects and planners.

Book Review: Concise Townscape by Golden Cullen - Sheet1
The cover of book – The concise townscape_ ©goodreads

According to Gordon Cullen, the layout of the city’s structures, including its streets, trees, and other natural elements, is known as Townscape. One approach to identifying a city’s physical shape using physical images is through the Townscape. The layout of the buildings and roads, which elicits a range of emotions in the viewer, may also be used to identify a townscape. The townscape idea is a foundation for architects, planners, and anyone concerned with the city’s appearance. The structure’s shape and mass impact and affect the physical form of urban space. The relationship between the physical condition of the urban environment and the body of the building mass is sensed by the spectator on a psychological and physical level. Additionally, the link between urban space’s size, form, and configuration and a city’s quality may be observed aesthetically.

Additionally, the link between urban space’s size, form, and configuration and a city’s quality may be observed aesthetically.

The author contends that values should be included in urban architecture for individuals to experience a pleasant urban environment emotionally through psychological and physical senses. This book focuses on four ideas: serial vision, place, content, and functional tradition. Each of the four main townscapes has specific characteristics, which are illustrated throughout the book as instances. 

Book Review: Concise Townscape by Golden Cullen - Sheet2
The page describing serial vision _ The concise townscape_ ©goodreads

Optics, or how we see our surroundings: In his description of serial vision, the town is described as revealing itself in “a series of twitches or disclosures,” always balancing the present perspective and the growing one. According to the author, serial vision is defined as the visual pictures that an observer encounters when moving from one location in an area to another. As observers record the image, it eventually transforms into a part of the recording area for them. The observer may usually tell that he is still in the same place because of similarities or a marker in the view’s parts.

Place: How we locate and experience ourselves concerning our surroundings: There is always a “here,” where you are, and a “there,” and it is fascinating to consider how we might shape these emotions to entice people to move about and explore while also fostering a sense of wonder, excitement, and tranquility. The author claims that people own locations based on how they feel there. For instance, a guy perched on a cliff’s edge will keenly feel his background, but a man at the end of a deep tunnel will respond to the cave’s confinement. The boundaries that exist in such a place have an impact on the location.

The fabric of towns: The author claims that an area’s fabric, which comprises color, texture, scale, style, character, personality, and distinctiveness, determines how one feels about the status of the urban environment. The degree of conformance and inventiveness are two criteria that affect content. In the author’s opinion, functional tradition is a desirable characteristic in the components of the urban environment. From a perspective that enjoys urban life rather than fears it, this is a fantastic depiction of the elements that make cities and towns operate. It brings home how much of the literature created about the city is the literature of terror.

Naturally, a lot of this is a direct response to Le Corbusier, whose work I’m now reading and just became aware of because of how he declared war on all of these concepts.

The Concise Townscape author draws three conclusions at the end of the book: Urban environments can be categorized in two ways. The first is the city as an object made up of subjects that are outside planners. Second, the city is built, and then it is populated with activities. Both provide a sustaining complement. Townscape serves as a city in this scenario, providing the framework and fostering action. The inhabitants of the urban setting should be able to live comfortably. The urban environment impacted the physical and psychological evolution of civilization. Therefore, it is essential to emphasize the art of the surroundings in urban planning.

The layout of an urban area should take Atlas’ reasoning into account. It has to do with the real-world dimensions of geometry, time, and atmosphere. In essence, the urban Townscape is divided into several critical components. People can identify a location physically and emotionally thanks to the Townscape. Townscape should be planned since it significantly impacts how a community grows in the area. The art of constructing an environment significant to a city is known as Townscape. Finally, this book has pioneered the idea of Townscape and has dramatically influenced architects, planners, and other people interested in city aesthetics.

References:

  1. Cullen, T., 2022. The Concise Townscape By Gordon Cullen [PDF|TXT]. [online] Pdfcookie.com. Available at: <https://pdfcookie.com/documents/the-concise-townscape-by-gordon-cullen-eg270jxdjjv0> [Accessed 21 July 2022].
  2. Shwetank, K., 2022. Book Review: The Concise Townscape by Gordon Cullen. [online] Academia.edu. Available at: <https://www.academia.edu/28603407/Book_Review_The_Concise_Townscape_by_Gordon_Cullen> [Accessed 20 July 2022].
  3. Gibbons, A., 2022. Gordon Cullen’s Concise Townscape – Andrea Gibbons. [online] Andrea Gibbons. Available at: <https://www.writingcities.com/2015/11/10/gordon-cullens-townscape/> [Accessed 22 July 2022].
Author

Sakshi Jain is a fifth-year architecture student at the Mysore School of Architecture in Mysuru. She believes in creating experiences and exploring - big and small - which explains her love of language. With a rekindled love of reading and a desire to travel, she intends to go places and share her experiences.

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