chapter  13
6 Pages

Landmarks, skyline and city image

Tall buildings, church spires and vertical features such as chimneys or pylons provide reference points to aid our navigation through towns. They are normally external landmarks in that we do not usually enter into them. In the city tall buildings rise above a basecourse of lower structures that comprise the everyday buildings – houses, warehouses, offices, and so on. For the landmarks to be read clearly they need to have background contrast so that they stand out from their neighbours. This means that landmarks are best set in an envelope of free space, and have a distinctive profile. Many towers in historic cities are so treated, especially the spires of churches or domes of town halls. The modern city poses a difficulty since the tall buildings are normally office blocks and they can look much like each other. So in many contemporary cities such as London or Birmingham one cannot navigate by the tall structures. Instead, one must search out the lower but more profiled and distinctive towers of earlier times to aid one’s navigation.