Monday, November 3, 2008

A Conversation with Larry Mccarty

Just moments ago i had the pleasure of meeting Urban Studies Professor, Larry Mccarty from VCU. It is moments like these where i am more than grateful to have followed the path that i have. Just yesterday i bumped into Justin Lincon, adjunct professor of sculpture at VCU and he had been sitting with Mr. Mccarty. During our quick discussion of my pursuit of graduate school i mentioned my background in Urban Planning. He responded that it was funny, the man he had just been sitting with, Mr. Mccarty was a planner. And so today when Mr. Mccarty enter the coffee shop i took a moment to introduce myself and ask him a few questions while generally describing my interests. Larry had a few very interesting things to say and he pointed out a few people that may be worth looking into as they relate to my work.

The first thing i found interesting was Mr. Mccarty's description of the division of the planning field and its representative academic programs. I had mentioned that the East Carolina program, during my attendance, was primarily focused on policy implementation and history. It was only after i graduated that the program picked up a new faculty member who appeared to be well versed in design issues. Mr. Mccarty spoke momentarily about the differing focuses of programs, from physical planning and economic planning, to history, theory and design. He also mentioned that he typically advises that a student interested in one area should consider attending a program that focuses on another. In response i noted that a student's primary interest would inevitably motivate them to seek out an acquire the information they desire and that perhaps attending a program that had an alternative focus would increase his or her scope, thereby building upon their understanding and while potentially elucidating connections between the two seemingly separate regions of focus. His reply to this was how in the past he had considered himself a physical planner, but that another practitioner concerned with the social implications of planning, noted that once a physical change in the environment becomes established, there is a consequent shift in human behavior and the social reality. These two perspective were thus one and the same, differing only in approach and scope.

The majority of this discussion evolved out of my interest in the effects of our environment on human behaviour and my general interest in art, environment and man. I have been watering the seeds of a new body of work, that i hope to develop while in graduate school. I remain interested in individual expression and personal responses to space, though it is certain that this body of work is building steam and that i am seriously considering developing its content while in a graduate program.

Mr. Mccarty also pointed out three individuals that i should perhaps look into. One of which i was previously aware of; Kevin Lynch. Lynch's work involving wayfinding and navigation has been on my mind since my first encounter with his text "Image of The City" while getting my Bachelors. His identification of the primary elements of a greater urban pattern, that effectively direct human activity in many ways, has influenced planners since its publication. Mr. Mccarty also noted that there was a video on YouTube capturing Kevin Lynch and his ideas. I have posted this below.

The two remaining names i feel that i may have heard of but cannot be sure; William Wyeth and Andre Duany. I have yet to find any info on Wyeth. But Andre Duany is an architect and appears to be linked to New Urbanism.

I must say it was refreshing speaking with Mr. Mccarty. I have been absorbed recently in thought, and it was good to finally meet with a member of the Urban Studies Department of VCU. I have been meaning to do this for some time. Opening a channel for discussion on the influence of environment on human behavior is important to my work and I am looking for a diversity of perspectives. This ultimately allows me to generate a more informed concept of how, on a social level, mankind perceives and develops his habitat.

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