MENTAL MAPS

The subresearch question for mental maps was

  • How do immigrant women structure Suvela?

The reason why I decided to use cognitive mapping as the next research and city planning method was the wish to find out, how immigrants perceive and orient themselves in Suvela.

All immigrants have lived in a culturally different built environment before their immigration to Finland. When they arrive here, they still carry images of these past environments in their minds, which again influences on how they observe and grasp their new environment, Suvela.

I gathered the research data as a random sample almost entirely in the residents’ park of Suvela – I gained only one map drawing at the shopping centre of Suvela – during September, 25th – November, 11th in 2011.

There were altogether 22 attendants in this section of my case study. They all lived in Suvela at that moment and represented the following nationalities:

  • 5 Estonians
  • 4 Somalians
  • 3 representatives of the former Soviet Union
  • 3 Kosovars
  • 3 Vietnamese
  • 2 Kenyans
  • 1 Thai
  • 1 Chinese.

I had the same small reference group of eight Finnish women to check also here, if and how immigrant women’s answers would differ from the Finnish women’s answers, and to assess, if my preassumption about immigrants’ different needs is true or not.

I asked the attendants to draw a map of Suvela with the following line:

”Please draw a map of Suvela to your friend, who is coming to visit the area for the first time.”

As a result I got 30 drawings of immigrant and Finnish women’s mental maps as my research material, which I then classified and analyzed with the help of Kevin Lynch’s city image elements.

Lynch has presented that people usually apply five different elements to structure the built environment in their minds: 1) paths, 2) edges, 3) districts, 4) nodes, and 5) landmarks. Lynch describes them in the following way:

  1. Paths.
    Paths are the channels along which the observer customarily, occasionall, or potentially moves. They may be streets, highways, transit lines, canals, railroads.
  2. Edges.
    Edges are the linear elements not used or considered as paths by the observer. They are the boundaries between two phases, linear breaks in continuity: shores, railroad cuts, edges of development, walls. They are lateral references rather than coordinate axes.
  3. Districts.
    Districts are the medium-to-large sections of the city, conceived of as having two-dimensional extent, which the observer mentally enters ’inside of”, and which are recognizable as having some common, identifying character. Always identifiable from the inside, they are also used for exterior referance if visible from the outside.
  4. Nodes.
    Nodes are points, the strategic spots in a city into which an observer can enter, and which are the intensive foci to and from which he is traveling. They may be primarily junctions, places of a break in transportation, a crossing, or a convergence of paths, moments of shift from structure to another. Or the nodes may be simply concentrations, which gain their importance from being the condensation of some use or physical character, as a street-corner hangout or an enclosed square.
  5. Landmarks.
    Landmarks are another type of point reference, but in this case the observer does not enter within them, they are external. They are usually a rather simply defined physical object: building, sign, store, or mountain.
Kevin Lynch's city image elements.

Kevin Lynch’s city image elements. Picture by Lucas Lindsey.

According to Lynch, these five different visual elements can be strengthened and created consciously in city planning in order to raise general imageability of the built environment: The quality in a physical object which gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer. Good imageability of the built environment, again – I think – would easen immigrants’ orienteering in a new environment.

CITY IMAGE TYPES

I divided the research material I had gained from immigrant and Finnish women into three different groups:

  1. those map drawings where Suvela was structured primarily with places
  2. thos map drawings where Suvela was structured primarily with paths and
  3. those map drawings where Suvela was structured with both places and paths.

1. Static ’Suvela of places’ appeared as a loose group of either abstractly shown places or conretely shown buildings, where places or buildings were bound to each other only by their proximity.

Map drawings that belonged to this category included some of the following city image element compilations:

  • landmarks
  • landmarks and districts
  • landmarks and nodes or
  • districts, paths and nodes.
An example of a city image where Suvela is mainly a static group of different places.

An example of a city image where Suvela is mainly a static group of different places.

Another example of a city image where Suvela is mainly a static group of different places.

Another example of a city image where Suvela is mainly a static group of different places.

2. Dynamic ’Suvela of paths’ appeared as a weave of crossing paths, where named places or buildings bound the paths in their positions.

Map drawings which represented this category included some of the following city image element compilations:

  • paths
  • paths, landmarks or
  • paths, landmarks and nodes.
An example of a city image where Suvela is mainly a dynamic fabric of paths between different places.

An example of a city image where Suvela is mainly a dynamic fabric of paths between different places.

Another example of a city image where Suvela is mainly a dynamic fabric of paths between different places.

Another example of a city image where Suvela is mainly a dynamic fabric of paths between different places.

3. Diverse ’tourist map Suvela’ was a composition of places and paths, where places had diverged into clear districts, landmarks, edges or nodes and where paths had become more accurate with nodes in the cityscape.

Map drawings that were included in this category included some of the following city image element compilations:

  • paths, landmarks, nodes and edges
  • paths, landmarks, nodes and districts or
  • paths, landmarks, nodes, districts and edges.
An example of a city image where Suvela is a combination of the previously mentioned city image types and which has been particularized with districts, edges, nodes and landmarks.

An example of a city image where Suvela is a combination of the previously mentioned city image types and which has been particularized with districts, edges, nodes and landmarks.

Another example of a city image where Suvela is a combination of the previously mentioned city image types and which has been particularized with districts, edges, nodes and landmarks.

Another example of a city image where Suvela is a combination of the previously mentioned city image types and which has been particularized with districts, edges, nodes and landmarks.

According to Donald Appleyard, a successor of Kevin Lynch’s research, paths and nodes belong to sequencial city images as an opposite to spatial city images which in turn include landmarks, districts and edges. The sequencial city images can be seen to correspond to the city images ’Suvela of paths’ in this case study and spatial city images to ’Suvela of places’ and ’tourist map Suvela’. Even though Appleyard came into conclusion that most people structure their built environment spatially, in this case study the result was fifty-fifty.

 

CITY IMAGE ELEMENTS IN SUVELA

1. Landmarks.

Immigrant women’s landmarks were recognizable and/or named buildings or marked places. Buildings stood out from their environment by colouring, size or placement in relation to the street. Marked places differentiated from their environment with a sign that either was a part of some building or functioned almost independently like a bus stop. The definately strongest landmark for immigrant women was the Kirsti school.

landmarks

landmarks_netti

2. Paths.

Immigrant women’s paths were streets, cycle ways and pedestrian streets. Most of them were related to bus and car traffic: Kirstinharju pedestrian street, for example, appeared only in one map drawing. The overwhelmingly most important path for immigrant women was Kirstintie.

paths

paths_netti

3. Nodes.

Immigrant women’s nodes were crossroads of the busiest streets and places that were shown central in the map drawings and that could be entered in. None of the nodes in Suvela rised clearly above others so that they could function as the centre of the area. The best distinguished nodes for immigrant women were the residents’ park of Suvela and the crossroads of Kirstintie and Sunantie.

nodes

nodes_netti

4. Districts.

Immigrant women’s districts were recognizable entities which were either bordered and named or consisted of parts that were similar with each other. All the districts in Suvela stood out weakly, though. All the districts of blocks of flats in Suvela did not differ from each other in any way in immigrant women’s map drawings. Those who had drawn the district of small houses in Suvela lived there themselves. The most vivid district for immigrant women was the area of blocks of flats in Kirstinharju.

districts

districts_netti

5. Edges.

Immigrant women’s edges were straight fronts or columns of buildings that separated different districts from one another. All the edges were of a similar kind and were not easily distinguished in the built environment. The strongest edge for immigrant women was the front comprised by the blocks of flats in Kirstinharju.

edges

edges_netti

 

COMPARISON WITH THE FINNS AND WITHIN IMMIGRANTS

There were no big essential differences between immigrant and Finnish women’s map drawings. Even though the research material is small, the following conclusions can be made:

  • Lynch’s city image elements appeared in both immigrant and Finnish women’s map drawings in the same frequency order – 1. landmarks, 2. paths, 3. nodes, 4. districts and 5. edges – when compared with the total amount of all different city image elements used within each group.

ratios_mamut

ratios_suomi

  • There was no difference from this order, when the amount of city image elements was proportioned with the amount of answerers.

commonness_mamu-ja-suo

  • However, immigrant women used paths more often than Finnish women, when examining in how many map drawings each city image element appeared.

appearance_mamu-ja-suomi

In order to examine whether the cultural distance has any influence on city images, I divided immigrant women into two groups and compared their city images to each other. The two groups consisted of 1) those immigrant women who had emigrated from another European country or a country that used to be part of the former Soviet Union and 2) those who had emigrated from a developing country in the so-called third world. Surprisingly, there were bigger differences in map drawings within immigrant women’s group than between immigrant and Finnish women, as the following claims show:

  • Even though the different city image elements had the same frequency order in the map drawings of both groups, women who came from the third world countries used only landmarks, paths and nodes while women from Europe and the former Soviet Union used all five city image elements.

ratios_europe-ja-ussr

ratios_3-maailma

  • This observation stayed the same also when the amount of different city image elements was proportioned with the amount of answerers.

commonness_pohjoinen-ja-etela

  • The difference between the two groups was clearest when examining in how many map drawings each city image element appeared.

appearance_pohjoinen-ja-etela

SUMMARY

In conclusion, immigrant women used most landmarks, then paths, nodes, districts and least edges in their map drawings. The most important landmark for immigrant women was the Kirsti school and the most important path Kirstintie. The blocks of flats in Kirstinharju appeared both as the most important node, district and edge in immigrant women’s map drawings but not distinctly: There were also other almost as common and very similar kinds of city image elements in each type.

Immigrant women’s city images consisted of the same city image elements that Finnish women used to structure their built environment too. Furthermore, these city image elements also appeared in immigrant women’s map drawings in the same frequency order but in a fewer map drawings and less numerously. The only exception here were paths which were more important for immigrant women than for the Finnish women. Thus, immigrant women’s city images were parallel to Finnish women’s city images but they were somewhat weaker than among Finnish women.

The longer the cultural distance was, the fewer different kinds of city image elements there were in immigrant women’s city images. Immigrant women, who came from the developing third world countries, used most landmarks, paths and nodes, while others used also landmarks and districts. It seems on grounds of this case study that when the cultural distance is short, that is: the built environment does not differ so much from your own, you can grasp the city structure visually. Correspondingly, when the cultural distance is long, it is easier to read the city structure in a narrative form as if you were telling the different places as crossing routes, bundling nodes and nailing landmarks to yourself or to somebody else.

 

References:

Appleyard, Donald: Planning a pluralist city: Conflicting realities in Ciudad
Guayana.
 MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1967
Lynch, Kevin: The image of the city. The M.I.T. Press, 1988