Book Review - What time is this place? by Kevin Lynch

Book Reviews Dated:  July 22, 2015
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What time is this place?   (First chapter)
Kevin Lynch        

Cambridge, The MIT Press, 1962
ISBN 978-0-262-62032-1


The ‘Introduction’ part of this book delivers a general idea on the ‘time-place’ theory which says change and recurrence gives a sense of living, be it, in the past, present or future. As time goes by, a place faces transition simultaneously. The theme of this book is that the quality of the image of time is important for the well being of an individual and the environment as well. On the other hand, the physical environment around controls that image of time. The book emphasizes more on the present showcasing where we are and where we must live. Enhancing the present and connecting to the past and future as well, creates a desirable image of time. Several cases of environmental change have been portrayed for better understanding of the ‘time-place’ relationship. The final chapter emerges out with ideas for policies as a conclusion of these discussions.

The first chapter titled ‘cities transforming’ elaborates on how natural processes prove disturbing to the growth of a city. Natural disasters being uncontrollable trigger huge losses in a place and this has been illustrated with examples. The inhabitants of a city endure to preserve, create or destroy the past, to build a secure future, thereby making the rapid transition a meaningful one. On the contrary, the initiators and regulators of change such as developers, entrepreneurs, managers, house builders, and planners struggle to comprehend and control them. There is diversity; nevertheless, there are common themes for both initiators and endurers.

This chapter encompasses examples of drastic transformations such as the Great Fire which broke out in London in 1666. Other examples include scenarios from the Bath: The Preserved city, the industrial wastelands of London and Ciudad Guayana, a new city, supported by illustrations.

The Great Fire of London in 1666 created a huge loss in the city with fire breaking out on a Sunday morning in September at a baker’s house, which, under an east wind lasted till Thursday morning. So, the intensity of the fire directly related to the struggle with respect to the reconstruction of the city which extended till 1672. The city’s wealth, population and trade faced a huge decrease. For a nation which was already at war with France and Holland was devoid of financial resources, including labor, timber, stone and brick. Because of the few accepted political authorities and the strong will to recover, the entire transformation happened. With recovery in motion, public spaces were cleared, neighboring towns helped the refugees and administrative offices were relocated.

The author explains the official steps taken such as the ‘Rebuilding act’, which paved way for the proper scheduling of the guidelines for reconstruction and financing. The decision to build the new city of  stone and brick, widen the streets, create fireproof buildings, new markets and better utilities, in fact soared up the new city’s standard. Avoiding the delay, all disputes related to reconstruction were untangles and resources started pouring in because of the higher tax imposed on imported coal. Therefore, it was all the London cash which regulated the whole event.

The building activity began in 1668 which in turn provided shelter for the construction workers; but churches were still left. When it was time to occupy the built houses, the dispossessed population had not returned as they began settling in the suburbs. The chapter delivers details about the money spent on the construction of different buildings. Hence, 1672 was the year which saw bankruptcy evolving in the city. Somehow, this financial strain paved way for a new spatial, social and economic organization. The drive to revive the city and create the image of the past has been tremendously made felt in this example. The revival included all the houses, the roads (improved and widened), and the churches and newly a Monument to the Fire was also erected. This disaster left a new physical city. The recovery has been remarkable that Tokyo when it was affected by a disastrous earthquake, considered London as good inspiration for revival at large scales and standards

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