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It seems there are several ways of wayfinding and navigation, one example explained by, Mark Massey describing the way in which, Erskine used serial vision is used within Byker wall[1]. When walking down the street at a regular pace you can see serial vision in affect, as it will provide a sequence of revelations[2] from one point in the distance, which will lead you to another point and another and another.


From my experience this serial vision effect can help you find some amazing places within a city. The first city I used serial vision as wayfinding and navigation, was in Vienna, Austria. Now if you’re like me and don’t trust yourself on public transport in an unknown place, then you will be used to wondering around a city but how can we ensure that we don’t get completely and utterly lost?


This map shows the points I used to take me along the route (in red) and all of the other buildings I saw among the way in passing through the centre of Vienna and how I (somehow) ended up at Mozart’s grave. This progression was due to the use of, Gordon Cullen’s serial vision of whatever caught my eye and led me to the next stop and the next spot and so on. Here are a series of drawings I produced along my journey;


However what exactly were these interesting points that caught my eye? Simply put they are landmarks, combined with the context that caused them to stand out. The surroundings are important as when “… appreciating architectural works we must appreciate the relationship of the structure to its site as a part of the total experience.”[3] Allen Carlson describes architecture as something that is not completed when the building is finished but also when it is read back by an individual so your overall experience is deepened, enriched and completed[4]. As there were so many landmarks in the area which acted like beacons over rooftops they were read as navigational nodes I could link to if I was ever to get lost and bring me back to a familiar place.

Kevin Lynch describes landmarks as;

“They are usually a rather simply defined physical object: building, sign, store, or mountain. Their use involves the singling out of one element from a host of possibilities. Some landmarks are distant ones, typically seen from many angles and distances, over the tops of smaller elements, and used as radial references.” [5]





The images above show how I was able to use these landmarks as points over the top of other smaller buildings. By using these landmarks along my route, once I was finished visiting Mozart’s grave, I was able to use them as points I recognised to help me get back. This helped as serial vision would end up taking me to another random place, which wouldn’t have been terrible, however I was quite done wondering and wanted to get back to the city centre, therefore the beacons helped guide me there.

Within Vienna the layout of the city lends very well to people easily navigating around, whether it be through serial vision or landmarks, so how has the urban design of Vienna contributed to this useful sequence of landmarks? The Ringstrasse.


The Ringstrasse works so well as it connects all points of the city together, as the point of it was to connect the suburbs to the center of imperial power[6], along with grand architectural buildings being routinely placed within this urban design strategy, it produced a hermeneutical circle.

“The hermeneutical circle has to do with the circular relation of the whole and its parts in any even of interpretation. At first viewing it would seem that we cannot understand the meaning of a part of a language event until we grasp the meaning of the whole; and we cannot understand the meaning of the whole until we grasp the meaning of the parts.”[7]

This is why when walking around the city the context of the beacons/ landmarks were so important in navigation as one without the other is unrecognisable and similarly with the Ringstrasse, it would not exist without the centre or the suburbs and their relation to one another.

As this idea of serial vision and landmarks can be applied to any city, especially major European cities, hopefully this will help the next time you are meandering through a city you are unfamiliar with, so you can experience new and exciting things without getting completely lost in the man made wilderness.




[1] Massey M. 2019, Place Making in the Garden Village Tradition, Principles and Practice of Urban Design TCP8090, Newcastle University, 14/ 11/2019

[2] Cullen, G. (1968). Townscape. New York: Reinhold Book Corp, p17

[3] Carlson, A. (2007). Aesthetics and the environment. London: Routledge.p203

[4] Carlson, A. (2007). Aesthetics and the environment. London: Routledge.p203

[5] Kevin Lynch, “The city image and its elements”, The city reader. LeGates, R. and Stout, F. (2011).  5th ed. Taylor & Francis Group., p502

[6] Vienna Now Forever, “The origin of the Ringstrasse”, accessed 10/01/2020

[7] Snodgrass, A. and Coyne, R. (2007). Interpretation in architecture. New York: Routledge., p35


Image Index

[1] Cullen, G. (1968). Townscape. New York: Reinhold Book Corp, p17

[2] (Author’s own work) Smith, M, 2018, Architectural Design Semester 1 ARC8050

[3] (Author’s own work) Smith, M, 2018, Architectural Design Semester 1 ARC8050

[4] (Author’s own work) Smith, M, 2018

[5] (Author’s own work) Smith, M, 2018

[6] (Author’s own work) Smith, M, 2018

[7] (Author’s own work) Smith, M, 2018

[8] Die Welt der Habsburger. (2020). ‘It is my will’. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Jan. 2020].

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