Subjective identity of Kaunas Cityscape: Research Results and Their Relation with Objective Indicators of Urban Structure
Keywords:cityscape identity, sense of place, urban structure
Kaunas city identity formants were recently identified preparing Kaunas City Master Plan in 2013. They are divided into four groups: natural, functional, iconic, and conventional symbols. Designation of symbols depicting urban identity is inseparable from the city's history, its culture, and urban development. Due to associativity characteristic to human thinking, history of the specific locality is understood through its inherent natural environment, objects created by human, and culture or its living traditions. Therefore, designating the objects forming city identity - symbols there were evaluated the following key aspects: natural conditions and historical-cultural-urban development. However, evaluation of subjective identity and its relation with objective indicators (natural or man-made objects and their characteristics) of urban structure is a very important factor for creating inclusive, phyllo-topic public urban spaces, having distinctive and unique character, and this aspect was not widely analysed in Kaunas city yet. The aim of the research is to establish links between the different levels of subjective identity of Kaunas city and its separate urban typological areas (Old Town, New Town, historical suburbs, residential areas developed in Soviet times, and city peripheral suburban areas) and objective indicators of urban structure, and to propose possible ways of urban design improvement in the places with negative identity. The research method used is sociological survey. Questionnaire is constructed employing the following theories: theory of historical-cultural artefacts (Cole, 1998), theories of the city form and image of the city (Lynch, 1984, 1960), and theory of sense of place (Shamai and Ilatov, 2005). Theory of pattern language (Alexander, 1977) was used to determine possible measures for changing negative place identity to positive. The results of the research let to identify the main objects of urban structure that are the most important to the identity of local and Kaunas level cityscape, factors of the negative identity, ways of integration of the new objects into existing urban environment preserving and developing its identity, the main elements of the local cityscape mental map, and the levels of subjective identity according the theory of sense of place. There were proposed to use 7 patterns related with communities and public spaces for the development of the positive identity. The main conclusions of the research are that positive identity of the cityscape is created by public spaces, objects of cultural heritage, parks, and public buildings; the main factors of negative identity are the following: unmaintained and unsafe streets, abandoned buildings and public spaces, etc.; the majority of the respondents feel a sense of belonging, attachment and special emotions to a place both in the local and city levels.