Reading the City Through History and Law/Image of the City

The Image of the City (1960) is a seminal book by Kevin Lynch. The book is the result of a five-year study of Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles on how observers take in information of the city, and use it to make mental maps. Lynch reported that users understood their surroundings in consistent and predictable ways, forming mental maps with five elements.[1]

Lynch's Five Elements=Edit


  • These are the streets, sidewalks, trails, canals, railroads, and other channels in which people travel;
  • They arrange space and movement between space.


  • Boundaries;
  • They can be either Real or Perceived;
  • These are walls, buildings, and shorelines, curbstone, streets, overpasses, etc.


  • Medium to large areas that are two-dimensional;
  • An individual enters into and out of these areas;
  • Have common identifying characteristics.


  • Large areas you can enter, serve as the foci of the city, neighborhood, district, etc.;
  • Offers the person in them multiple perspectives of the other core elements.


  • Points of reference person cannot enter into;
  • These are buildings, signs, stores, mountains, public art;
  • Mobile Points (such as Sun) can be used as well.

In the same book, Lynch also coined the words "imageability" and "wayfinding". Image of the City has had significant influence in the fields of Urban Planning and Environmental Psychology.


  1. Lynch, Kevin (1960). The Image of the City. The MIT Press. ISBN 0-26-262001-4.