Urban Landscape Perception in Relation to Collective Mentalities and Memories: Case Study: Tajrish District

Document Type : Research Paper


1 University of Tehran

2 Associate Professor and member of the Faculty of Environment, University of Tehran


Collective memory is directly related to the residents of a neighborhood and city. Given the different positions of a site, various approaches are adopted toinitiateor preservememories in city. In this respect, time, socio-historical memory, traditions, myths, historical layers, the places where our memories take shape, the cultural context of city and understanding landscape gain importance as mental facts. In spite of being incomprehensible, time induces resistance in human so as to increase human’s tendency to control and dominateit. The mechanisms of such a control create the need topreserve(keeping or stopping time), to accumulate, and also forprojection manifesting themselves in the form of such mechanisms as “memory,” “retention,” “mental accumulation,” “dream,” “mental scenarios,” “ideal,” “desire,” etc. in human life.
The issue at hand is how the importance of collective memory can be brought up by landscape design in the quality of life, physical quality, and urban landscape. In certain cases, the site needs to be observed bya close encounter and its residents need to be interviewed. In other cases, palimpsest tools are employed considering the urban history. Any urban space in which an event has occurred and even all symbols and elements constituting urban spaces are the places for the accumulation of our collective memories. What matterhere is to identify the elements, symbols, and criteria associated with collective memories by  which factors of identity, sense of place, and attachment to the residence and urban spaces can be preserved, reinforced, or created in landscape design.
The physical environment of city as the resource and the symbols of mental images and memories are especially formable. Every individual becomes attached to city given the memories one has from the urban landscape. Therefore, identifying the factors leading to the creation of memories and the relationship between urban landscapes and mental perceptions are essential ignoring which causes a cultural break. The relationship between mental perceptions, as a constant thing, and the physical structure of city, as a variable thing, creates a balanced space between city and collective memory causing people to partake in it. Hence, the urban landscape can function as a context for the formation of collective memories and the mental perceptions of its users. What matters is to identify the factors creating collective memories and its durability in environmental aspects and that whether adopting them in landscape design can prove to be effective in maintaining and enhancing cultural coherence, attachment to residence, and urban spaces. Thus,this can also improve urban landscape quality.
Materials and methods
Given the information obtained from previous research and the identification of the scope of study, certain methods were selectedtoachieveresearch objectives. Landscape is analyzed and perceived using all human senses. There are two approaches for landscape analysis, namely descriptive and perceptive. The emphasis, in this study, is placed on landscape analysis on the basis of people mental structures. Interviews were conducted in order to find out what existed in the minds of users of the space. In this regard, the landscape analysis method (using interviews and questionnaires as tools for identifying people’s mental perceptions of the urban landscape as well as finding out the factors creating collective memory) was adopted. To conduct the interviews, local residents who lived in the area under study (Tajrish neighborhood) and were familiar with the history of the neighborhood were taken into consideration. Snowball sampling was used for identifying them
Considering the landscape analysis method being perceptive and mental, six images from memorable spaces of Shemiran were prepared at first to begin working with the questionnaires. Given the studies carried out, certain components were then considered for each image in order for the viewers to score them given the impression they receive from each image (1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=no comment, 4=agree, 5=strongly agree). In doing so, the images were black and white so that visual beauty would not influence the viewers and they would answer the questions bearing in mind what the images are associated in their minds and merely through their impression of the space. The questionnaires were distributed among 30 persons who were at least 30 years old. According to the results, the factors affecting the mentalities were extracted.
Results and discussion
Given the studies and the information obtained through interviews with the sample population, a mental map was obtained for the residents of Tajrish neighborhood (Figure 1). The map shows indeed that natural, artificial, and mental elements leave durable effects on people’s minds each in its own specific way. Depending on the conditions of the time and place in which a person lives, certain components are of importance.Theexistence of the factorscan cause durable memories withattachment to place, formation of new memories, and cultural coherence.
Figure 1. Mental map of the components affecting mental perception in Shemiran
On the other hand, given the analysis of the results of landscape scores, we obtained the effectiveness of each of the components on mental perception in the urban landscape of Tajrish neighborhood. On this basis, the elements and symbols existing in the landscape leave the greatest positive effect on mental perceptions compared with other factors.The most important components aregardens, buildings, and old streets with their specific vegetation with 100%, alleys within gardens with 96%, and rivers with 93% of effectiveness. In this respect, Rachel Gould and Chokor respectively consider historical symbols and pay attention to public demands as well as the symbols they have in their minds to be among the most important issues for perceiving urban landscapes. In Belanger’s view, places as historical neighborhoods can be replete with symbols. This leads to the creation of collective memories that their resultsarethe development of common values. The next factor that itscomponents play an important role in landscape perception is attachment. This prefersa certain landscape over another with 88%, the feeling of happiness therein with 74%, recalling memories by visiting the place with 67%, a feeling of nostalgia with 54%, and convenience with 53% of effectiveness. Thesehadthe greatest effect on people mental perception and demonstrated an attachment to that landscape given the collective memories shaped in urban landscapes. In the discussion about collective memories, the last factor affecting mental perception of the space is social relations. This causes what happens to the landscape in future to be of great importance to all residents with 92% of effectiveness. Social relations take shape in spaces where there are interactions and relationships among people. In this regard, Schwartz considers the role of open spaces very important in improving the life of citizens and increased probability of memories being formed.
The methods adopted in this study help find a mentality in people that articulates past memories and can be utilized to arrive at a social relationship between culture, environment, and landscape at the present time. This trend brings about a mental network of public perception regarding the environment and the landscape where they live the memories are mentally valuable even if no objective symbol has remained in over the years. According to the results, collective memories are directly related to a number of factors including identity and culture, memory and time, social memories, palimpsest, urban landscape as well as its constituting elements. In view of the context in which the memories have taken shape, taking these relationships into consideration leads to the identification of mental factors and criteria that have enormously contributed to the formation of collective memories. Finally, the elements and components were obtained that were employed toachieve the best pattern toperceivethe urban landscape (Tajrish neighborhood). Considering the achievements of this study and the characteristics of the site, propositions are put forward. Use of the propositionscan play a significant role in increase of landscape quality, attachment, preservation of past memories, and formation of new ones in similar sites:

Use of elements and symbols that are effective on the formation of memories and mental perceptions. These are including use of elements such as plane tree, creation of spaces resembling fruit gardens of the past, creation of spaces for enhancing peoplesocialization, planting plane trees in a row likeValiasr Street and the creation of a relationship between the landscape of mountain and river, use of watercourse as a natural element in design instead of hiding.

Creation of spaces for social interactions: These are including creation of social-gathering spaces and hangouts, creation of spaces for holding national and religious ceremonies, creation of spaces for holding seasonal exhibitions and events that attract families to urban spaces, use of appropriate urban furniture.

Enhancement ofnatural context: these are in view of the natural context of the site, considering the slope, height difference of surfaces, and the vegetation used in design, embedding a pool thatinitially purifies the collected runoff to some extent and then directs it toward the watercourse.

Enhancing the aesthetic quality of the landscape: these factors are including special attention to visual disturbances in order to alleviate them, designing passages and stoppage locations in a way that the users of the space would be in a direct relationship with different spots and landscapes, use of floor coverings with local materials that, while visually beautiful, enhance perceptive beauties owing to the past memories, demonstration ofthe beauties of religious, social, and natural landscapes through the presence of people and social activities in urban spaces.

Givingthe possibility tothe presence of pedestrians in urban spaces: Creation of theme gardens (holiness garden, light garden, secret garden, social garden, and serenity garden) based onthe past events as well as people spirits and mentalities.


Main Subjects

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