Mapping Meaning in the City Image: A Case Study of Kandy, Sri Lanka

Mapping Meaning in the City Image: A Case Study of Kandy, Sri Lanka
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  Locke Science Publishing Company Inc.  MAPPING MEANING IN THE CITY IMAGE: A CASE STUDY OF KANDY, SRI LANKAAuthor(s): Kapila D. SilvaSource: Journal of Architectural and Planning Research , Vol. 28, No. 3 (Autumn, 2011), pp.229-251Published by: Locke Science Publishing Company, Inc.Stable URL: 10-05-2016 15:07 UTC  REFERENCES  Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article: You may need to log in to JSTOR to access the linked references.   Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusteddigital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information aboutJSTOR, please contact Locke Science Publishing Company, Inc.  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extendaccess to Journal of Architectural and Planning Research This content downloaded from on Tue, 10 May 2016 15:07:41 UTCAll use subject to   Journal of Architectural and Planning Research  28:3 (Autumn, 2011) 229  MAPPING MEANING IN THE CITY IMAGE:  A CASE STUDY OF KANDY, SRI LANKA  Kapila D. Silva  Research into environmental cognition has largely focused on the imageability of visual and spatial attributes of the environment and has neglected the meaning, or associational , attributes. This study  examines the relationship between environmental meanings, especially the much neglected sacred  meanings, and the distinctive perceptual characteristics of the environment in evoking images, using the  city of Kandy in Sri Lanka as an instrumental case study. Interviews with residents reveal that Kandy  evokes a very strong city image because of the meanings associated with the city and its features. Those  meanings, in turn, strengthen the perceptual attributes of the city features as well as the cognitive  structure of the city image. The sacred meanings attributed to the city play a vital role in this process. The  image of Kandy, in essence, is a juxtaposition of several symbolic dimensions, including the senses of  sacrality, historicity, scenic serenity, and well-being, all of which are complementary to one another.  Preservation and development activities for the city should focus on promoting these imageable  dimensions. The study concludes that environmental meanings contribute strongly to the imageability of a place and that knowing the environment is informed by meanings.  Copyright © 2011, Locke Science Publishing Company, Inc.  Chicago, IL, USA Al Rights Reserved This content downloaded from on Tue, 10 May 2016 15:07:41 UTCAll use subject to   Journal of Architectural and Planning Research  28:3 (Autumn, 2011) 230  INTRODUCTION  In his seminal study on the image of the city, Kevin Lynch ( 1 960) mentioned that the imageable environment  and, by extension, its image have three components: identity, structure, and meaning. Identity refers to the  noticeable features of the environment, while structure refers to the spatial relations of those features. Meaning refers to the symbolic content and associational connotations of the environment.  Studies in environmental cognition research that followed Lynch's work are, nevertheless, largely focused  on the imageability of visual and spatial attributes of the environment and have neglected the meaning, or  associational, attributes. For instance, although Lynch (1960) referred to environmental meanings, his own  study focused exclusively on the identity and structure attributes of the imageability of cities. Even though environmental cognition research has amassed a large literature on this subject, almost all of it has similarly neglected the meaning attribute of imageability. Much criticism has been leveled at this incomplete under-  standing of the image in cognition research. For example, as early as 1963, Gulick (p. 197) mentioned that  urban imageability is a product of the perception of visual form and of the conception of social signifi- cance (referring to meanings). Stokols and Shumaker (1981) called it social imageability, distinguishing  the attribute of meaning in imageability from the visual and spatial aspects in order to emphasize the need for  and to facilitate the study of meanings in environmental images. Reviewing the state of environmental  cognition research up to the late 1970s, Moore (1979) argued in favor of more research into the cognition of  environmental meanings. Nevertheless, no significant change has yet occurred in this area (Kitchin and Blades, 2002; Silva, 2001).  Rapoport (1976, 1977) showed the limitations in the previous research and the importance of approaching  the subject from a cross-cultural point of view in exploring meanings embodied in mental representations of environments. Rapoport ( 1 988, 1 990b) developed a theoretical framework of environmental meanings based  on a nonverbal communication model and even suggested three categories of environmental meanings: high-level meanings (sacred meanings, such as concepts of sacrality and cosmological systems), middle-  level meanings (social meanings, such as power, wealth, status, group identity, and political ideologies), and low-level meanings (instrumental meanings or basic factual understanding of the world). Rapoport (1990b) further suggested that perceptual differences in the environment and the decoding of associational mean-  ings in environmental cues jointly define the environment and appropriate action. Even though the seeds for a theoretical explanation for bringing environmental cognition and environmental meaning together exist in the latter statement, Rapoport did not comprehensively pursue this objective of tying meanings to environ-  mental cognition research.  Some attempts were made at filling this theoretical gap (for instance, Appleyard, 1 969, 1 970, 1 976; Lee, 1 970;  Nasar, 1 998; Russell, et al. ,1981). These studies found that a combination of the visual, spatial, affective, and  social significance of environmental features evokes images of the respective locations in people's minds.  Yet the focus was only on certain aspects of social meanings and largely on visual/formal attributes of the  environment. As a result, the role played by other dimensions of environmental meanings in the imageability  of an environment is unknown. For instance, the significance of the sacred meanings in the evocation of  environmental images has not been studied. Moreover, the findings of these studies have not been tied to the larger knowledge domain of environmental cognition. Consequently, the literature on cognition in the  field of environmental psychology is disparate and conceptually incoherent, not comprehensive, and in the  final analysis, it fails to generate a cumulative theoretical development in the discipline (Canter, 1991; Rapoport, 1997). Rapoport (1976, 1977) points out that while psychologists defined environmental cognition as a learning  process of encoding and decoding information, anthropologists defined it as a taxonomie process by which  the world around us is made meaningful by classifying it according to a conceptual system. Studying the  cognition of the social world and related meanings, anthropological and sociological approaches have also neglected the connection between knowledge of the physical environment and its meanings (D'Andrade,  1995; Kunda, 1999). Consequently, there is a need for studies of both perceptual and meaning dimensions of  the environmental image and imageability in its entirety.  The present study primarily examines the relationship between environmental meanings, especially the  much neglected sacred meanings, and the distinctive perceptual characteristics of the environment in  evoking images. It brings together disparate theoretical conceptions of environmental cognition and envi- This content downloaded from on Tue, 10 May 2016 15:07:41 UTCAll use subject to   Journal of Architectural and Planning Research  28:3 (Autumn, 2011) 231  FIGURE 1. Map of Kandy.  ronmental meanings in different disciplines in order to achieve an integrative theoretical understanding of  the environmental cognitive process, the resultant image, and the imageable attributes that facilitate that  process.  RESEARCH DESIGN  The Case Study: City of Kandy , Sri Lanka  For this research, a setting that has all levels of meanings, including the high-level sacred meanings, is an  essential factor. The city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, which is believed to have such meanings, was selected as a  case study (Figures 1 and 2A-B). Located in the central hills of Sri Lanka, Kandy was the last stronghold of  the Sri Lankan monarchs (Rohanadeera, 1998). The Portuguese and the Dutch temporarily occupied it, but it This content downloaded from on Tue, 10 May 2016 15:07:41 UTCAll use subject to   Journal of Architectural and Planning Research  28:3 (Autumn, 2011) 232  FIGURE 2A. Map of downtown Kandy.  1 . Temple of the Tooth Relic  2. Kandy Lake  3. Udawatta Range 4. Bahirava Kanda Range  5. Hantana Range  remained free as a stronghold until 1815, when it was ceded to the British by the Kandyan aristocracy under  a treaty. The city underwent a large reconstruction program in order to incorporate cosmological and  religious ideals within its built fabric during the reign of its last monarch ( 1 803-1 812). The city was extended  during the British occupation, but few modifications were made to the historical core (Duncan, 1989, 1990). In 1 988, UNESCO declared Kandy a World Heritage City, and a massive restoration program was carried out. The historical core of the city includes the old royal palace, the new presidential mansion, the Temple of the  Tooth Relic of the Buddha (the palladium of the Sinhalese kings), headquarters of the two main Buddhist  monasteries (Malwatta and Asgiriya), and four shrine complexes (called devala) dedicated to the guardian  deities of the country. In addition, many Buddhist temples and monuments lie in and around the city. Its main  event, the annual pageant known as the Äsala Perahära, is a celebrational procession that circumambulates  the historical quarter of the city in honor of the Relic and the city's guardian deities in July/August. Today, Kandy is home to 1 10,000 people and serves as the administrative capital of the Central Province of Sri Lanka  and its main cultural and religious center.  The city represents an accretion of meanings from three different eras: the pre-colonial kingdom (before 1815),  the British period (1815-1948), and the present day. The sacred meanings historically attributed to Kandy still  play a vital role. According to Duncan (1989, 1990, 1993), the sacred meanings that governed the design of  Kandy and most aspects of its daily life had a central focus: to convey the message of the sacral supremacy of This content downloaded from on Tue, 10 May 2016 15:07:41 UTCAll use subject to
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