Monday, December 19, 2005

Tonight's Work - - Lynch Analysis

Lynch Analysis of Place Elements

When Lynch performed analysis on places for his book Image in the City, his method was to gather cognitive maps drawn by city residents that were then compiled and analyzed. The underlying question of one of the image people have of the city, not necessarily one of identity or how well the city works for them, or how well it works in general, for that matter.

The question here goes beyond the image residents have of this place toward the question of what to do to make it better. While residents had four separate categories of interventions they would like, this analysis proceeds through the screen of identity, which was one strategy identified toward political and physical improvements to place. As such, the results we look for through the Lynch analysis supersede his original purpose, necessitating an adjustment to the analysis itself. This analysis will attempt to look at the physical elements drawn or described in the maps to get a sense of how this place works for its residents and other participants at Workshop I.

The seminal Lynch elements consist of district, path, edge, and landmark.


In the sense of district, this area is surrounded by districts that stop at its edges. Los Ranchos to the north, the Westside to the west, Downtown to the south, perhaps the shopping center beginning to take shape on the west side of I-25 and Montaño. The area as defined by the visioning boundaries does not operate as a district in the sense of holding together or being self-sufficient, despite several residents describing the Village or small-town feel of their community. These comments are not associated with any boundaries but rather describe a lifestyle that incorporates open space, trails, and agricultural lands on as daily experiences.

In a smaller sense than Lynch normally used in defining a district, the area to the west of 4th Street, bounded by Solar to the north, Montaño to the south and Rio Grande to the west, which includes Los Poblanos as its figurative center, has some weight as a conceptual district. The roads that form the boundaries operate as strong edges due to their poor permeability for any mode of transportation. Guadalupe Trail is the main path through this district for cars, bikes, and pedestrians, with Harwood Lateral an important path for pedestrians and bikes. Guadalupe Village provides important services and shopping opportunities. St. Michaels is an important community center; even as it turns its back on the neighborhood to front Montaño, it is accessible by foot from the nearby residences.


Paths by foot and bicycle are well-defined by acequia trails, which also serve as an important setting for informal interaction with neighbors. In order of importance as measured by times mentioned during Workshop I, the acequias are as follows: Gallegos Lateral, Harwood Lateral, Gallegos Lateral/Alameda Drain, Guadalupe Trail, and Hackman Lateral. Gallegos is a main east-west path. Harwood and Guadalupe Trail are both north-south routes that could connect residents throughout the area if the crossing over Montaño could be made safe. Gallegos Lateral/Alameda Drain could provide a regional connection with Los Ranchos to the north and Downtown to the south for commuting bikers if the trail were to be improved. Hackman Lateral could improve neighborhood access to Los Poblanos, which right now is only accessible via Montaño to the south and through a private development on the east. These paths are well-used now but could be integral to area connectivity if they were improved.

Interior residential streets do not work well as paths because they are not connective. They tend to work as dead-end subdivision spurs to connect houses to main arterials for cars. They do not work well to connect residential to residential streets. Cars move quickly on them, undermining their use by children or non-car traffic due to safety concerns. Solar and Gene Avenues are important east-west streets that connect neighborhoods north of Montaño. Douglas MacArthur performs the same function for neighborhoods south of Montaño. East-west streets west of 4th Street are not interconnected. They provide singular access for residents living on that street, which deadend at 2nd Street.

4th Street is the dominant path for all residents, as it is the main access to/from the area and to/from all residential neighborhoods. Montaño does not emerge as a path in this analysis, since residents do not travel on Montaño west of 4th Street, and traffic congestion minimizes its usefulness east of 4th Street.


Montaño does emerge strongly as an edge in this area, separating neighborhoods to the north from neighborhoods to the south. Pedestrians and bicycles cannot cross safely, which was mentioned again and again as residents decried the lack of access at Guadalupe Trail or the Harwood Lateral. 4th and Montaño is too busy and poorly designed for safe crossing by any mode of traffic. Only one street south of Montaño empties onto Montaño – 9th Street, except for gated communities that ONLY empty to Montaño but turn their backs on neighborhoods to their south. To the north, neighborhoods dead-end at Montaño. There is a park at the termination of Guadalupe Trail at Montaño that residents called “useless.” It consists of little more than xeriscape median and a sign.

2nd Street is a strong conceptual edge to the east, particularly for Los Alamos addition residents, whose residential streets dead-end at the Gallegos Lateral/Alameda Drain, directly between them and 2nd Street. The industrial and highway-scale character of 2nd Street contrasts sharply with both 4th Street and Montaño. Despite 4th Street’s shortcomings, it is still a local street, lined with small-scale, local-serving businesses, and it remains four lanes. Montaño, even post re-striping to four lanes, remains a boulevard. Its distinguishing characteristics are xeriscape landscaping, well-spaced businesses on large lots with large set-backs. 2nd Street, at four lanes with generous turn lanes and shoulders, hosts large-scale businesses that are usually gated and stand self-contained and imposing with vacant space in-between. The Gallegos Lateral/Alameda Drain precludes development on the west side of 2nd Street, but the absence of trees, path, or street furniture leaves this potential place-making characteristic simply a well-mowed ditch (not in the good sense but rather just a hole in the ground).

There is no strong sense of an edge to the north. Lee Acres is a distinctive neighborhood, whose character of large lots and non-vernacular architecture sets it apart and therefore may serve as an edge to some residents. The next large shopping center north, where _____ terminates, may function as the next conceptual boundary.

There is no edge to the south, as the (strip-retail and chain restaurants) character of 4th Street continues toward downtown, and residential streets replicate themselves as they make their way toward Griego, where the grid begins to reassert itself in residential streets.


Landmarks are sparse and not universally accepted/perceived. Guadalupe Plaza, with its large sign and large-scale buildings, including the important shopping destination of Smiths and entertainment destination Blockbuster, works as a landmark for many residents. Sadies is on most community maps and may operate as an important place for informal community interaction. Other popular businesses include the Fruit Basket, Luigis, Ramon’s, Sophie’s, Dion’s, Walgreens, and the Bowling Alley.

Los Poblanos is a landmark, but it has limited visibility to all but those living nearby because of its location insulated by residential neighborhoods. It can be seen from Montaño, but residents rarely travel on Montaño, as stated above. Still, community events such as the corn maize and the existence of the community farm give residents reasons to go there.

The mosaic sculpture – the Tree of Life – on the southeast corner of 4th and Montaño was mentioned several times by residents, although they also described it being overshadowed by the new carwash immediately to the east. A nearby “Tile House” on one of the Los Alamos Addition streets was also described as a landmark, and together, these two landmarks establish a character theme for mosaic tile for some residents.

Perhaps the most important landmark is the intersection of 4th and Montaño itself. When asked where residents live, it is often this intersection that gives the identifying reference point. Its scale and integral-ness to the community cements its status as a landmark, however hated.

Grecian Park is an important landmark for some residents living west of 4th Street and north of Montaño.

Los Alamos Addition, with its idyllic, tree-lined streets, functions as a landmark for some residents who know it’s there. Driving on 4th Street, it’s easy to pass by without glimpsing these charming streets at all.

The Montaño Bridge itself is a landmark, although it can’t really be described as part of this area. Despite its disastrous effect on the area, one resident still described the bridge itself as “lovely.”

Alvarado Elementary School near Los Poblanos is a landmark for several residents, as is Douglas MacArthur Elementary School south of Montaño. These are really the only public institutions in the area, separate from churches, and this status might elevate their importance as not only landmarks or schools but the only presence of City institutions.

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