When initially reading the brief, what struck me, as an interesting idea to explore was that of change within planned cities and how these changes affect human behaviour and society. Inevitably, Coventry became the city I wanted to focus these notions on. War, politics and crime, which have affected both the landscape and people of Coventry both historically and presently, I feel, are riveting notions to investigate. Additionally to this, I want to delve into and question how far a humans environment can structure and mould who they are and how they behave, and how the changes and developments within Coventry’s landscape have worsened, bettered or simply evolved the people of Coventry. My aim is to focus on the affects these changes have on planned cities socially and physically.
Coventry, the city of Peace and Reconciliation, was reduced to rubble after the German blitz in 1940. The attack was a tragedy of immense proportion, which destroyed the city and caused the deaths of approximately 600 civilians. However, the murderous event was not satisfied with revenge or hostility. Instead, the people of Coventry adopted a much more inspiring and powerful attitude, that of acceptance, peace and reconciliation. The city and its people became renowned for this inspiring turn around. They re-built the city from the ground, transforming its landscape whilst still maintaining medieval traits. Here I can focus on the key elements from the war within Coventry such as Coventry Cathedral. This piece of Coventry’s history I feel is key in proving how changes in Coventry’s landscape have affected the people of Coventry’s behaviour and how these behaviours have changed over time. A city compared to the legend of The Phoenix, rose from the ashes, as did the people, but this changed over time.
Once hopeful, united and determined, people in Coventry have been diminished to unemployment, crime and unfulfilled plans, a saddening contrast. In relation to the latter, I want to investigate areas of the city, which have the highest crime rates and unemployment and study the environments and compare what these areas were like in the past. I could find out which buildings were designed for workers or which were the main factories and businesses and what these buildings are used for now, something worthwhile or nothing at all? Before, Coventry had a high employability rate, which slowly decreased after the war. However, these negativities could be challenged by the cities modern developments and diverse society: it has two universities, large modern shopping centres, new buildings and is home to a range of races, cultures and religions which shows how the city and its people have evolved.
My idea to focus on changes in environments and how this affects people’s behavior links to the ideas presented by Skinner. Philosopher B. F. Skinner saw humans as no different to animals, rebelling against the more romantic idea that human action was the result of inner emotions, thoughts and drives, otherwise known as the ‘psyche’. Skinner was more inspired by Pavlov’s work, which indicated humans should be analyzed as physical beings interacting with their environment. However, Skinner went beyond this with his theory, ‘operant conditioning’ a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through these rewards and punishments, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. This philosophical distinction allowed for the incredible variety of human difference, while allowing adhesion to the behaviorist line that humans were basically creatures of their environment. With this theory in mind, it makes me wonder how far Coventry’s environment and changes within the environment are responsible for the people’s behavior and determinants. And so my aim is to focus on the changes both past and present Coventry’s landscape has been summoned too and how this has affected the people of Coventry due to the effects of war, politics and changes within modern society.
Below is a mind map of what I hope to investigate to reach a conclusion.