Kevin A. Lynch

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For other people called Kevin Lynch, see Kevin Lynch (disambiguation).
Kevin A. Lynch

Kevin Andrew Lynch (born 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, United States; died 1984 in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, United States) was an American urban planner and author. His most influential books include The Image of the City (1960) and What Time is This Place? (1972).


Lynch studied at Yale University, under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received a Bachelor's degree in City Planning from MIT in 1947.[1] He then began work in Greensboro, North Carolina as an urban planner but was soon recruited to teach at MIT by Lloyd Rodwin. He began lecturing at MIT the following year, becoming an assistant professor in 1949; was then tenured as an associate professor in 1955 and became a full professor in 1963.

In 1954, after receiving a grant from the Ford Foundation to study urban form in Italy, Lynch and his MIT teaching colleague Gyorgy Kepes were awarded a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to study perceptions of the urban environment and urban form.[n 1] Lynch and Kepes' research was published in 1960 as Lynch's book The Image of the City.[2]

Lynch provided seminal contributions to the field of city planning through empirical research on how individuals perceive and navigate the urban landscape. His books explore the presence of time and history in the urban environment, how urban environments affect children, and how to harness human perception of the physical form of cities and regions as the conceptual basis for good urban design.

Parallel to his academic work, Lynch practiced planning and urban design in partnership with Stephen Carr, with whom he founded Carr Lynch Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lynch died at his summer home in Martha's Vineyard in 1984.

The Image of the City[edit]

Lynch's most famous work, The Image of the City (1960), is the result of a five-year study on how observers take in information of the city. Using three disparate cities as examples (Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles), Lynch reported that users understood their surroundings in consistent and predictable ways, forming mental maps with five elements:

  • paths, the streets, sidewalks, trails, and other channels in which people travel;
  • edges, perceived boundaries such as walls, buildings, and shorelines;
  • districts, relatively large sections of the city distinguished by some identity or character;
  • nodes, focal points, intersections or loci;
  • landmarks, readily identifiable objects which serve as external reference points.

In the same book, Lynch also coined the words "imageability" and "wayfinding". Image of the City has had important and durable influence in the fields of urban planning and environmental psychology.

Selected writings[edit]


  1. ^ The Rockefeller Foundation grant was the first in a series of awards made during the 1950s and early 1960s to researchers studying urban design. Other recipients included Jane Jacobs, Ian McHarg and Edmund Bacon.


External links[edit]