6.1 The ‘Grain of the City’

“A good environment is richly diverse; its parts have distinct, identifiable character; they are marked by visible differences that allow choice and sensuous exploration, and they give a sense of place and home.” (Lynch 1999; p.90)

The texture of a city can also be tied back into its overall structure. Kevin Lynch has defined numerous ways of identifying how a successful city attracts people through its urban structure. One of these definers looks at how the pattern of distribution between different elements within the city and their variants and segregations contribute to the overall quality of a place. The extent of difference and the way in which these elements are distributed spatially give the city its “grain” or texture. The grain can be identified as consisting of the diversity of uses, environment and population. The uses of space include commercial, residential and leisure activities. The environment is a mix of natural and higher density constructions. The third aspect of grain is the mix of cultures and population types that comprise the population of the city. (Lynch 1999; p.39-40,362-3)

A fine grain is one where these changes occur in close proximity to each other whilst within the coarse grain they are more sparse and form larger zones that are not intermingled. The grain therefore is the degree of intimacy with which various elements such as stores and residences are related. A well balanced city might be considered to have a wide range of density and variety of activities dispersed in a fine grain. Different structural forms and accommodation types would be available. A good environment is also one that has a fine grain to it with diverse land usage; open natural spaces interspersing high density urban development.

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