Experiencing visualities in designed urban environments: learning from Milton Keynes

Degen, Monica; DeSilvey, Caitlin and Rose, Gillian (2008). Experiencing visualities in designed urban environments: learning from Milton Keynes. Environment and Planning A, 40(8) pp. 1901–1920.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/a39208

URL: http://www.envplan.com/abstract.cgi?id=a39208


In many discussions of how cities in the global North are changing, the growing importance of urban design is emphasised: that is, the production of visually and spatially coherent urban buildings and spaces seems to be increasingly central to urban change. To date, most attention has focused on exploring the reasons for this shift. Much less attention has been paid to the experiences of the people inhabiting and using such designed spaces. Although many authors acknowledge that, in theory, such encounters between human subjects and designed urban environments are richly various and unpredictable, few studies have examined this empirically and learnt theoretically from these encounters. Drawing on fieldwork undertaken in the British city of Milton Keynes—the centre of which is a shopping mall, a designed environment par excellence—the authors argue that understanding experiences of contemporary urban change requires a relational and performative understanding of environmental encounters, and they suggest three intertwined implications for rethinking research on urban aesthetics: first, a multimodal and sensuously embedded understanding of vision; second, a practice-centred understanding of the environment; and third, a need for self-reflexive understanding of the researchers’ position in the fieldwork.

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