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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 14. 1970

Remembered Landscapes

Remembered Landscapes

Man's need for a bit of wilderness among the concrete, for a respite from angularity and aridity, is a deep need, long recognized by poet and artist, and noted by sensitive men for ages. But now a research project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has produced some findings which may even impress developers themselves—men who never believe a fact unless it is statistical.

Alvin K. Lukashok and Kevin Lynch undertook a series of detailed interviews with 40 persons, none of them professionally involved in urbanism or design. These ranged from 18 to 32 years in age, had come mostly from the Boston area, but included a few persons from New York, and as far distant as Vienna. The Lukashok-Lynch study grew out of one assumption that present adult memories reflect actual childhood preoccupations."Or—that memories of childhood are important emotional underpinnings of modern man's life, and are to be laughed away or disregarded at our peril and great loss.

For these people remember most vividly those elements of their childhood which involved landscape—lawns and pavement surfaces, foliage, woods and green hills, and water in the landscape. Among these childhood memories, lawns were associated with spaciousness and a sense of freedom. "Of the various types of (landscape) floor coverings mentioned, grass is the best liked, then dirt that can be dug or molded, and after that, any smooth surface that allows roller-skating or bicycling."(From the report.) ... "The floor surfaces a child seems to dislike are asphalt on open spaces that otherwise would remain grassy, and brick and gravel Of the few people who mention brick-paved surfaces, none talk about the visual quality of such surfaces, all dislike the uneven texture it provides....

Trees, trees and more trees reappear in these ehildriood memories and are mentioned with great warmth. For children, trees offer ideal places for play, shade, climbing, carving, hiding and for creating wonderful childhood fantasies. Hardly a single interview failed to reveal this affinity for trees.

"...it was sort of a friendly thing. We carved our initials in them. You could do a lot of things with them, climb them, hit them, hide behind them...you could see out between the trees, but none could see in...we used to hide in them." These interviews showed clearly that "children seem to prefer to play anywhere but the playground." Some comments: "We would rather play in the foliage... Our idea when I was 9 or 10 years old was not to play on the playground, but to find some place where there were rocks and broken bottles...a lot of trees and holes to fall into...Out in back was a big field where the grass was over your head. They have cut that down now, and made a playground out of it so it is n't as romantic...

"...I was sort of pleased with having all these nice places to play in, the nice things that moved and worked etc., but there simply wasn't enough space just to go and play in and do idiotic things in. You couldn't [unclear: iig], for example: I like to dig. There weren't many places to dig because of the hard asphalt on the playground." "So many people remember with pleasure, the overgrown lot, thick brush and woods," say the authors. "It is sufficient to give us pause in our treatment of 'waste' or 'untidy' areas or in the design of play spaces."

"On the whole, people remember keenly and with pleasure the hills that were in the vicinity...Because so often a hill is not the best site for a building, it is the last part of an area developed, allowing it to remain wild and therefore attractive to children."

The most disturbing thing coming out of this study was the authors' conclusion that most of the people interviewed "rarely conceive of the city as something that might give pleasure in itself. They hardly expect to have an enjoyable city environment, as if a mild civic nausea were a normal burden of man's existence."

Under the impact of housing shortages, of get-rich-quick pressures on city officials, the urban green spaces are disappearing at an appalling rate. And with the disappearance of these "wastes" we lose trees, hills, water, fields of tall grass, the hidden and hiding places of the world, and in the end, an important part of life itself. One is jorced to conclude from the M.I.T. studies, if not from a knowledge of the world as it exists without benefit of such research, that somehow the delights of waste spaces, of odd lots, of tangled woodlands left in the midst of housing developments—somehow these must be protected and preserved.

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Double-spread of large building and two people