The role of visual representations in urban planning

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Visual representations in its all-different forms help us to understand our cities, make it available for analysis. They help us to make useful conceptual shortcuts in our understanding in order to have a glimpse of what’s happening in our cities. This research focuses on visuals as representations of cities. These visuals may be a single spatial representation as a map or a sketch, or it may be in form of a visual metaphor (for example Blue Banana, European Bunch of Grapes, London Green Belt, the finger model of Copenhagen etc.) or a complex set of images. Throughout the history, the urban planning discipline has looked at visual representations in various different ways, giving little to no attention on them at all (Jarvis 1994; Neuman 1996, 2000; Faludi 1996; Dühr 2007). Since the notion of planning through debate (Healey, 1992) they are accepted communication tools which shape attention (Forester 1989), therefore shape the discourse (Kunzmann 1996; Healey 1997, 2006; Forester 1999). On the other hand, they are object to treacherous vision (Shields, 1996) which allows manipulations (Pickels 1992; Neuman 1996; recognized that representations may focus on certain parts while inevitably neglecting others (Harvey 1996). Since the visual representations of spaces, like cartographical maps, are not accepted as objective and scientifically informed instruments only, they as well are object to communicative distortions (Dühr, 2007). Thats why it is believed by some theoreticians that it is probably abstain visual representations (Eeten and Roe, 2000) because they can lead to serious conflict (Zonneveld, 2000) through their biased perspective of reality (Crampton, 2001). Despite the recognized consensus-building purpose of representations; growing chaos, complexity and fuzzy reasoning hinders their effective outcomes (Forester, 1999; Healey, 2007; Innes and Booher, 2010; Neuman, 2010). Growing complexity makes planning messier, their outcomes sketchier (Neuman, 2012) and their discourse more abstract. On the other hand, how can we make planning interesting and understandable without using visual representations (Zech, 2013)? Nevertheless, discourse helps finding meaning in complexity and it can create unquestioned knowledge that requires unconventional creative thinking. Visual representations in all its different forms help us to understand the urban complexity.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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