Cognitive Mapping Lab

Choose Your Mission:

  1. Let’s pretend we’ve been commissioned by the university to develop a study of circulation and people’s “sense of place” within 6 East 16th How might we use cognitive mapping to better understand how students (and, perhaps, the other building inhabitants with which they interact: staff, faculty, etc.) navigate throughout and, to borrow Lynch’s terminology, “sense” the building? …or…
  1. Let’s pretend we’ve been commissioned by the city to develop a study of circulation and peoples’ “sense of place” in and around Union Square Park. How might we use cognitive mapping to better understand how park inhabitants or passers-through navigate within and around and, to borrow Lynch’s terminology, “sense” the park?

You might imagine yourself inhabiting one or a variety of subject positions: someone with a broken leg, reliant on crutches; someone looking for a quiet corner to cram for an exam; someone averse to crowded spaces; a maintenance worker or janitor trying to do his or her job…

  • What particular paths, edges, nodes, landmarks, districts, or other “species” of space might guide their way, as it did for Lynch’s research participants and the visitors in Beirut?
  • How might their navigation become a social activity, as it is, again, in Beirut?
  • How might they, like the Polynesian wayfinders, use the stars (or some other consistent, architecturally-ingrained markers), environmental cues (think 3-D!), and memory to find their way around?
  • Do they, like London’s black cab drivers, have strategies for finding the “shortest and most elegant line between points”?
  • What other strategies might folks employ to make the building (and, perhaps, its position within the larger campus context) “imageable” and “legible”?

Try sketching out some rough maps representing your cartographic subject(s)’ “sense of place.” You might draw inspiration from Lynch’s maps, but you’re free to develop your own legends and visual language. Consider also integrating or adapting some of Lynch’s other methods – like photography and inventories – or inventing your own.

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