Experimental Approach on the Cognitive Perception of Historical Urban Skyline

Seda H. Bostancı, Murat Oral


In a lifetime, human brain constitutes cognitive models for various conditions and events in order to be able to adapt to the environment and lead a life based on experiences. Based on multidimensional sensory experiences, people create an internal model of a city and they use this model as a mental sketch in their new urban space experiences. Cognitive mapping methods create qualified data for way-finding and the process of classifying the stimuli of the living area and carrying out spatial designs that promote quality of life. Aesthetic perception of the urban pattern consists of keeping the skylines of a city in memory and being able to create an image in mind. Skylines are three dimensional urban landscapes which has a prime role in urban design studies. Urban skylines are the reference points for the historical perception of the environmental image. Urban skylines can be classified basically in three categories as the historical skyline, complex skyline in which new and higher structures are dominant and mixed skyline which is a combination of these two situations. The postcards and information guides for cities are important references in representing the identity for historical cities. The photographs seen in information guide books and postcards are attractive points for citizens and visitors of the cities. The fact that cities are changing constantly shows that cities like İstanbul, which are famous for their coastal skyline can protect the holistic aesthetic value of their very limited textures but cause a dramatic change and a chaotic visual effects within their urban transformation process. One of the major fundamental research areas of this study is to determine how these changes affect the memory. 

The aim of the study is to investigate how the image created by the skylines of historical cities can be expressed by drawing. The basic differences among the cognitive mapping techniques and the cognitive perception and the schematic display of a skyline can be discussed through this experimental approach. This study aims to do experimental research among a group of architecture students who are strong at drawing and schematic expressions. The selected group of samples will be asked to draw (1) the schematic skyline images of the city they live in and a city they have visited as far as they remember, (2) examined how they draw a skyline and how much time it takes after they are shown a skyline of a historical city chosen in a certain time, (3) watch a video on the streets of two different cities they have seen or haven't seen before, and asked to draw a skyline of the city based on what they have watched. Finally, these different situations will be analyzed. In the experimental study, After 3 days, drawing the best remembered skyline image will be requested from students. And what the sample group have thought in this selection in terms of aesthetics will be measured with the semantic differential and the adjective pairs. Participants will be asked to draw the catchy image of the skyline shown in order to compare the experimental methods and the subjective aesthetic evaluation methods. Observation-based determinations will be realized by the analysis of these drawings and the adjective pairs. In this way, the relation between the skyline perception and the aesthetic experience in urban life will be discussed. 


Urban skyline, environmental psychology, urban sketching, visual education, aesthetic evaluation

Full Text:



Alexander, C. (2002). The Nature of Order: The Process of Creating Life, Taylor and Francis.

Arnheim, R. (1969). Visual Thinking, University of California Press.

Appleyard, D. (1969). “Why buildings are known a predictive tool for architects and planners”, Environment and Behavior, 1(2): 131-156.

Assmann, J. (2008). Communicative and Cultural Memory, chapter in Erll A. and Nünning A. (Eds.), Cultural Memory Studies: An Interdisciplinary Handbook, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp.109-118.

Berlyne D.E. (1973). The Vicissitudes of Aplomathematic and Thelematoscopic Pneumatology, chapter in Berlyne, D.E., and Madsen, K.B. (Eds.). Pleasure, Reward, Preference: Their Nature, Determinants, and Role in Behavior: Academic Press.

Çubukçu, E. and Nasar, J.L. (2005). “Relation of physical form to spatial knowledge in largescale virtual environments”, Environment and Behavior, 37(3):397-417.

Çubukçu, E. and Ekşioğlu Çetintahra, G. (2016). “The influence of planning education on cognitive map development: an empirical study via virtual environments”, TMD International Refered Journal of Design and Architecture, 9: 73-87.

Downs, R.M. and Stea, D. (1973). Image and Environment: Cognitive Mapping and Spatial Behavior, Transaction Publishers.

Dewey, J. (1958). Experience and Nature, 1: Courier Corporation.

Eagleman, D. (2015). The Brain: The Story of You, Pantheon.

Halbwachs, M. and Coser, L. A. (1992). On Collective Memory, University of Chicago Press.

Hillier, B. and Hanson, J. (1989). The Social Logic of Space, Cambridge University Press.

Lang, J.T. (1987). Creating Architectural Theory: The Role of the Behavioural Sciences in Environmental Design, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Lynch, K. (1960). The Image of the City, 11: MIT Press.

Jacobsen, T. (2010). “Beauty and the brain: culture, history and individual differences in aesthetic appreciation”, Journal of Anatomy, 216(2): 184-191.

Krampen, M. (2013). Meaning in the Urban Environment, Routledge.

Madanipour, A. (1996). Design of Urban Space: An Inquiry into a Socio-spatial Process, John Wiley & Son Ltd.

Minai, A.T. (1993). Aesthetics, Mind, and Nature: A Communication Approach to the Unity of Matter and Consciousness, London: Preager.

Nasar, J.L. (1989). Perception, Cognition and Evaluation of Urban Places, In I. Altman and E.H. Zube (Eds.) Public Places and Spaces. Human Behaviour and Environment. (Vol.10). Plenum Press, New York and London.

Nasar, J.L. (1994). “Urban design aesthetics the evaluative qualities of building exteriors”, Environment and Behavior, 26(3): 377-401.

Nasar, J.L. (1998). The Evaluative Image of the City, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Neto, P.L. (2001). “Evaluation of an urban design project: imagery and realistic computer models”, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 28(5): 671-686.

Oc, T. and Tiesdell, S. (1999). “The fortress, the panoptic, the regulatory and the animated: planning and urban design approaches to safer city centres”, Landscape Research, 24(3): 265-286.

Parsons, R. and Daniel, T.C. (2002). “Good looking: in defense of scenic landscape aesthetics”, Landscape and Urban Planning, 60(1): 43-56.

Portugali, J. (2004). “Toward a cognitive approach to urban dynamics”, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 31(4): 589-613.

Rapoport, A. (1983). “Environmental quality, metropolitan areas and traditional settlements”, Habitat International, 7(3-4): 37-63.

Stamps, A.E. (2002). “Fractals, skylines, nature and beauty”, Landscape and Urban Planning, 60(3): 163-184.

Stamps, A.E., Nasar, J.L. and Hanyu, K. (2005). “Using pre-construction validation to regulate urban skylines”, Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(1): 73-91.

Taşkıran, H.İ. (1997). Yazı ve Mimari, Yapı Kredi Kültür Sanat Yayıncılık.

Tolman, E.C. (1948). “Cognitive maps in rats and men”, Psychological Review, 55(4): 189-208.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15320/ICONARP.2017.25

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Iconarp International Journal of Architecture and Planning

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

                                                                                     INDEXES & DATABASES:

                            ICONARP International Journal of Architecture and Planning is an OAJ supported by Selcuk University, ©2019,