Academic Session 32: Loughborough 2017

43rd Annual Conference & Art Book Fair
Loughborough University
6th to 8th April 2017

The Object of Urban Visual Culture  


Robert Harland, Loughborough University,

Urban environments in the 21st century are peppered with a vast array of graphic objects, serving many functions. They inform and persuade, entertain and educate, and more, contributing to what Kevin Lynch called the ‘City Image’.

Lynch sought to define the ‘image of the city’ through identity, structure and meaning, with the concept of ‘imageability: that quality in a physical object, which gives high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer.’ He based this on earlier ideas about the attributes of an artistic object. If looked at from the perspective of visual culture, with its strong emphasis on cultural identity and weaker sense of the visual that also considers social factors, the scope of objects that contribute towards understanding the city image is wide.

For some, urban visual culture emphasises the products of advertising by foregrounding its relationship to architecture and design. This partial perspective takes a narrow view of design for visual communication in urban contexts, leading to the need for further consideration of what urban visual culture might be. What is its scope and scale? How might it be defined in relation to Lynch’s ideas about imageability? In short: What is an urban visual culture?

This session explores what urban visual culture might be in relation to Lynch’s aspiration for imageability, visibility, and legibility in the design of urban environments. It brings together perspectives that explore urban art, threshold images, vernacular aesthetics, political aspiration, wayfinding, city marketing, visual ethnography, and semiotics.

Click here to download a .pdf of this session's paper abstracts

Isabel Nogueira (National Society of Fine Arts (Lisbon)) Urban Art in the Construction of the Contemporary Visual Field. Lisbon as a case of study

Laurence North (Falmouth University) Art and the Alternative Space/Time of London Underground

Sophie Barr (University of East London & London College of Fashion) The Brand Nobody Knows: London’s fashion ‘other’ and the vernacular aesthetics of a high street

Robert Harland and Antonia Liguori (Loughborough University) Mussolini’s ‘mesographic’ Messages: A Latina Province case study

Lingqi Kong (Loughborough University) Urban Graphic Visual Culture: Beijing’s identity and its current graphic wayfinding systems

Karin Wagner (University of Gothenburg) Whose Image of the City is it? Marketing a city through photos in social media

Johnny Jie Xu (Loughborough University) Visual Ethnography Methodology for Colour Research in Urban Environments

Efrossyni Tsakiri (NTUA, Greece) From Sense to Making Sense: Identifying cities through visual representations in urban design, cartography, painting