Representing the Experience of City

How can we represent a city in the form of a distinctive memento without relying on icons?

Elizabeth Kelly
College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Australia

A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the Degree of Bachelor of Design with Honours, November 2005


Certificate of Originality

“I hereby declare that this submission is my own work and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it contains no material previously published or written by another person nor material which to a substantial extent has been accepted for the award or any other degree or diploma of the university or other institute of higher learning, except where due acknowledgement is made in the text”

Elizabeth Kelly



Thank you for your support and advice:

Thank you to my supervisor, Carol Longbottom, for her encouragement guiding my progress throughout and for helping direct me to so many different interesting theorists.

Thank you to Althea Francini for guiding me to Narrative Inquiry and giving me the faith to be the sort of researcher I am. 

Thank you to Brad Miller for looking after all of us as co-ordinator and not having a heart attack over my unusual approach to things. 

I would also like to thank to Vaughan Rees and Professor Neil Brown for lending their fresh eyes and opinions.

And, finally, thanks to my family and friends for supporting me, listening, helping to edit and generally putting up with me.



This paper looks at how we experience cities and how that experience could influence the way in which we represent a city. 

The paper is laid out as a framework for designers to consider when developing mementos aimed at a tourist market. A range of interpretations of the city are examined, from its urban form and structure to its symbolic significance. It looks at the narratives and images contained within the city, as well as the scope of personal experiences and multiple perspectives by which the city may be viewed. It aims to inspire all design practitioners to reflect on the rich potential a city offers for creating distinctive objects. 

The focus of the study will be on Sydney. 


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Considering the City

1.1 Methodology

Chapter 2 – Context of Study – Motivations and the Tourist Gaze

2.1 Iconic Representation

2.2 The Tourist’s Role in Defining the City

2.3 Tourist Versus Local Viewpoint

Chapter 3 – What is a City

3.1 City as Architecture and Form

3.2 City as Form and History

3.3 City as Receptacle of Intersection

3.4 City as Symbol

3.5 City as Interpretation

3.6 City as Brand

Chapter 4 – City as Experience

4.1 Documenting Experience

4.2 Sydney Narratives

Chapter 5 – Images of the City

5.1 Seeing the City

5.2 City as Artwork

5.3 Ekphrasis and the City

5.4 Sydney Ekphrasis

Chapter 6 – The Texture of the City

6.1 The ‘Grain of the City’ 

6.2 The Grain of Sydney

6.3 Grain as Texture

6.4 Texture of Sydney

6.5 Sydney Style

Chapter 7 – Representing the City

7.1 The Souvenir and Images for Tourists

Chapter 8 – Reflecting on the City

8.1 Ways forward in Representation


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