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A transparent and theory-based scheme for analysing visual character is presented. Based on a literature review, nine key visual concepts are identified: stewardship, coherence, disturbance, historicity, visual scale, imageability, complexity, naturalness and ephemera. The nine visual concepts are presented in a framework of four levels of abstraction, described through the concepts' visual dimensions, landscape attributes contributing to the concepts and potential visual indicators suggested for mapping and quantifying the concepts. Each of these concepts focuses on different aspects of the landscape important for visual quality, where visual quality is an holistic experience of them all. The visual concepts presented are used to describe different characteristics of visual landscapes, rather than presenting a normative value for visual quality. It is believed that this framework can be important for landscape assessment and the compilation of landscape character.
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Landscape Research
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Key concepts in a framework for analysing visual
landscape character
M. Tveit
; Å. Ode
; G. Fry
Department of Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning, Norwegian University
of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen, UK
Online Publication Date: 01 July 2006
To cite this Article: Tveit, M., Ode, Å. and Fry, G. (2006) 'Key concepts in a
framework for analysing visual landscape character', Landscape Research, 31:3,
229 - 255
To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/01426390600783269
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Key Concepts in a Framework for
Analysing Visual Landscape Character
. ODE** & G. FRY*
*Department of Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning, Norwegian University of Life Sciences,
s, Norway **Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, UK
ABSTRACT A transparent and theory-based scheme for analysing visual character is presented.
Based on a literature review, nine key visual concepts are identified: stewardship, coherence,
disturbance, historicity, visual scale, imageability, complexity, naturalness and ephemera. The
nine visual concepts are presented in a framework of four levels of abstraction, described through
the concepts’ visual dimensions, landscape attributes contributing to the concepts and potential
visual indicators suggested for mapping and quantifying the concepts. Each of these concepts
focuses on different aspects of the landscape important for visual quality, where visual quality is
an holistic experience of them all. The visual concepts presented are used to describe different
characteristics of visual landscapes, rather than presenting a normative value for visual quality. It
is believed that this framework can be important for landscape assessment and the compilation of
landscape character.
EY WORDS: Visual character, visual concepts, landscape assessment
One of the major challenges in analysing landscape change is the lack of operational
landscape indicators of visual quality. For many environmental issues, includi ng
pollution, soil erosion, crop quality, access and biodiversity, we have a strong
conceptual base to guide the search for quantitative indicators. For visual aspects of
landscapes this conceptual base is weak, which has slowed progress in developing
visual indicators, and is urgently required if we are to be able to compare different
landscapes or the same landscape over time. An Organization for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD) meeting on landscape indicators in 2002
(Dramstad & Sogge, 2003) identified the state of landscape indicators as much less
well developed than indicators of many of the other countryside values. In other
words, the theoretical base for developing visual indicators requires more work to
bring it to a level comparable with that already reached by indicators of other
Through the years, several frameworks for analysing and describing visual quality
and character of the landscape have been developed (see, for example, the overviews
Correspondence Address: M. Tveit, Department of Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning,
Norwegian University of Life Sciences, PO Box 5003, 1432 A
s, Norway. Email:
Landscape Research,
Vol. 31, No. 3, 229 255, July 2006
ISSN 0142-6397 Print/1469-9710 Online/06/030229-27 Ó 2006 Landscape Research Group Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/01426390600783269
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by Lothian (1999) and Zube et al. (1982)). According to Lothian (1999), the work on
analysing visual aspects of landscape could be divided into:
. the expert approach, where the focus is on characterizing the landscape as an
. the subjectivist approach, where the focus is on the viewer’s experience of the
In order to analyse the effect of landsca pe changes we believe that it is important to
be able to characterize the visual landscape as an object, while the interpretation of
these changes needs to take the viewer’s experience into account. Between-group
differences in aesthetic quality assessment can be considerable (Morgan, 1999), and
there is a need to find object ive measurements that are meaningful to pe ople.
Palmer (2000) discusses some of the possible reasons for the lack of research in this
area, such as the cha llenge of achieving reliability in the results, the difficulty of
representing real multi- dimensional landscapes through photos in empirical studies,
and the subjectivity of most landscape analyses. The body of theory in landscape
visual assessment is, however, developing.
Three of the most widely applied practical frameworks for analysing visual
qualities are Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) (see, for example, Swanwick,
2002), Scenic Beauty Estimation (SBE) Method (for example, Daniel & Boster, 1976)
and Visual Resource Management (VRM) system (for example, Bureau of Land
Management, 1980). The LCA was developed in the United Kingdom (UK) and has
been widely used in various stages of the planning process during the last 20 years.
The SBE was developed for the United State s (US) Forestry Department during the
1970s and has been widely applied in forestry planning in the USA. The VRM
system was developed by the Bureau of Land Management in the USA, where it has
been used to maintain and enhance the scenic quality of public lands.
One of the limitations with all three methods in relation to analysing landscape
change is that they rely on field data for their estimation. For the LCA and VRM
methods it is at the field survey level that most of the visual characterization is
assessed, wher eas the SBE is based on the rating of landscape photographs. This
makes these approaches less applicable for evaluating landscape change based on
land-cover data or remote sensing.
We propose a framework for visual character assessment that:
. provides transparent data on landscape structure;
. is consistent between recorders;
. uses readily available data;
. is easily integrated with information on other landscape functions.
Such a framework would make it possible to analyse the consequences of landscape
change for visual character in planning and policy evaluation. We contribute to the
development of such a framework by proposing an overview of the dominant visual
concepts and their theoretical base. Even though most of the literature sources were
European or North American, and dominated by agricultural or forest landscape
research, we feel that the concepts identified have relevance for other contexts.
230 M. Tveit et al.
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We do not claim to present the definitive list of visual concepts, but one supported by
landscape research. Our purpose is to describe the steps between the theoretical
concepts and visual indicators.
The focus of this paper is on the visual characteristics of landscapes, whereas other
aspects of landscape experience, such as sounds and smells, etc. are not included in
the study. This framework provides support for the development and application of
visual indicators and helps by increasing understanding of what we want indicators
to indicate. The framework focuses on the conceptual level, and will not provide a
comprehensive set of visual indicators at this point.
Theoretical Framework for Assessing Visual Quality
Within the field of landscape aesthetics several theories for explaining landscape
perception and preferences can be found. These can be broadly divided into
evolutionary theories and cultural preference theories. The evolutionary theories
explain landscape perception and preference as shaped by our common evolutionary
history (Appleton, 1975; Zube, 1984). Accor ding to this approach, landsca pe
aesthetics are seen as a dimension of human fitness and survival, where landscape
preferences reflect landscape qualities satisfying human biological needs to survive
and thrive as a species. As all humans have a similar evolutionary basis for
evaluating a landscape, this would argue for the existence of a common set of
landscape features perceived as positive or negative for all humans. Orians (1980)
suggested that all humans enjoy being in savannah-like environments, this being the
probable site of our evolutionary origins. Two of the most widely quoted theories
related to this idea are the prospect refuge theory (Appleton, 1975) and the
information processing theory (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1982, 1989). The prospect refuge
theory stresses the role of humans as both predator and prey, which results in a
preference for landscapes offering both prospect and refuge, i.e. the possibility to ‘see
without being seen’. The prospect refuge theory thus interprets this ability to see
without being seen as an indicator of environmen tal conditions favourable to
biological survival. Landscapes offering this feature provide a source of aesthetic
pleasure (Appleton, 1975). The informational framework as presented by Kaplan &
Kaplan (1989) has as its basis the human need for information and the ability to
process it to survive. The appreciation of landscapes with properties that make them
easily readable would hence be favoured by natural selection, and the genetic bases
for such landscapes prefer ence would still be inherent in people today. Our common
evolutionary background is thus a strong argument for the existence of a universal
set of landscape features shaping preferences for all humans. In this approach, innate
human characteristics are seen as the explanation for people responding affectively
to landscape in the same way.
In contrast, others have argued that the perception and experience of a landscape
are predominantly dependent on the cultural background and personal attributes of
the observer. These theories often focus on preferences at a level beyond the
immediate and affective preference response and tend to focus more on perceived
functions (Bell, 1999). The topophilia hypothesis as presented by Tuan (1974)
focuses on pe rsonal attributes, such as age, gender, occupation, hobbies, academic
background and familiarity, as being important for the forming of landscape
Analysing Visual Landscape Character 231
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preference. The ecological aesthetic (Carlson, 2001; Gobster, 1999) links preferences
for landscape with ethics, suggesting a prefer ence for ecologically sound landscapes.
The formal aesthetic has its foundation in design theories, linking the description of
landscape with terms developed in the aesthetic philosophy and art, and later
transferred to a landscape co ntext. The aim of the approach ha s been to provide a
language to describe the landscape with regard to aesthetic qualities, mainly in
relation to design, planning and assessment (see, for example, Bell, 1999). Formal
aesthetic theory stresses the role of the connoisseur or expert that has formal training
with regard to aesthetics, and is thus qualified to judge the visual quality of the
landscape in the same way as there exist wine conn oisseurs (Arler, 2000). However,
in practice this theory has the weakness that there is a low degree of agreement
between experts (Bell, 1999).
These major approaches to landscape theory expose a clear tension between
biological and cultural explanations of aesthetic experience, and between viewing
behaviour as innate or as learned (Bourassa, 1991). More recently we have seen
approaches to landscape aesthetics that accept a mixture of cultural and biological
forces as explaining human landscape preference. Consistent with Bourassa, both Bell
(1999) and Norton et al. (1998) conclude that preferences are formed in humans on the
basis of both genetic and cultural influences. All human beings enter the world with a
specific genetic make-up, but the genetically based preferences are, however, challenged
and changed by cultural influences and experience, such that landscape preferences
reflect a combination of the forces of nature and culture. Hartig (1993) argues that
nature experience has a transactional character (i.e. that the various aspects of human
environment systems serve to define each other), and that a synthesis of the
evolutionary and cultural perspectives is the most appropriate for further research.
We support Hartig’s argument, and argue that an integrative theoretical
framework is the most appropriate. Due to our common evolutionary history,
there exists a common set of landscape features that are preferred across cultures and
personal differences. This is not to say that cultural and personal differences do not
exist, but to state the need to find both this common set, and also the cultural forces
that shape the divergences. This paper sets out to explore the commonalities, the
aspects of the visual landscape that most humans respond to, recogni zing that
responses might differ both in type and in strength between individuals and groups.
The literature reviewed included papers on landscape aesthetics, visual concepts and
landscape preferences in rural landscapes. This was to provide a broader base for the
development of a conceptual framework for visual indicators. The sources used
. academic literature (including scientific journals, reports, conference proceedings,
books and theses);
. guidelines and handbooks (including work on landscape character assessment),
mainly from the Nordic countries, the UK and the USA;
. policy documents (OECD conferences, national guidelines for visual assessment
and European Union (EU)-funded projects and reports).
232 M. Tveit et al.
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The selected literature was analysed in order to explore the current terminolog y
describing visual quality. The terminology used for describing visual qualities in the
diverse literature used was recorded (see Table 1). This literat ure on landscape visual
quality provided us with many visual concepts, most of which were overlapping or
were used synonymously. In our analysis of the terminology of visual quality, we
discovered four levels of abstraction in the terminology ranging from the abstract
conceptual level to concrete measures of descriptors of the physical landscape. From
this analysis we developed a hierarchical structure of four levels relating to the
levels of abstraction: concepts 4 dimensions 4 landscape attribut es 4 indicators
(Figure 1). In this framew ork the concept and the dimension level are both abstract
conceptual levels, whereas landscape attributes and indicators are aspects of the
physical landscape. The terminology was ordered and grouped into this scheme.
Concepts can be seen as an umbrella term under which several visual dimensions can
be found. These dimensions describe different aspects of the concept at an abstract
level. Dimensions are determ ined by physical attributes in the landscape, while the
landscape attributes, in turn, can be described using visual indicators. The indicators
represent the level at which the physical landscape attributes are counted, measured
or scaled to allow different landscapes to be compared or to identify change in the
same landscape over time. In the following detailed descriptions of the identified
concepts we provide examples of the four levels of abstraction.
At a broad scale, the key visual concepts related to landscapes have been grouped
by how they relate to structure, function or value. This three-fold division has been
used by Parris (2002) in his description of the development of landscape indica tors for
monitoring by the OECD. In this study, we have chosen to limit ourselves to concepts
that relate to landscape structure—the landscape’s physical attributes independent of
the attributes of the observer (Lothian, 1999). Concepts that relate to functions that
the observer reads into the landscape based on its structure have been left out. An
Figure 1. From concept to indicator: the four levels of abstraction identified in current
terminology on visual landscape quality.
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Table 1. Visual concepts, synonyms used in the literature and references for these
Concept Synonyms References
Stewardship . Sense of order . Coeterier (1996)
. Sense of care . Girardin & Weinstoerffer (2003)
. Upkeep . Hands & Brown (2002)
. Hartig (1993)
. Laurie (1975)
. Nassauer (1992)
. Nassauer (1995)
. Nassauer (1997)
. Ode & Fry (2002)
. Sheppard (2001)
. van Mansvelt & Kuiper (1999)
. Weinstoerffer & Girardin (2000)
Coherence . Correspondence with ideal . Bell (1993)
situation/harmony . Bell (1999)
. Unity . Bureau of Land Management (1984)
. Uniformity . Federal Highways Administration
. Holistic . Forestry Commission (1989)
. Land-use suitability . Hendriks et al. (2000)
. Balance and proportion . Herzog (1984)
. Intactness . Herzog (1989)
. Harmony . Kaplan (1977)
. Kaplan & Kaplan (1989)
. Kuiper (1998)
. Laurie (1975)
. Litton et al. (1974)
. Ode & Fry (2002)
. Palang et al. (2000)
. Swanwick (2002)
. van Mansvelt & Kuiper (1999)
. USDA (1995)
Disturbance . Intrusion . BC Ministry of Forests (1997)
Alteration . Bell (1993)
. Impact . Bureau of Land Management (1980)
. Lack of contextual fit . Forestry Commission (1989)
. Lack of coherence . Herna
ndez et al. (2004)
. Hopkinson (1971)
. Institute of Environmental
Assessment and the Landscape
Institute (1995)
. Institute of Environmental
Assessment and the Landscape
Institute (2002)
. Iverson (1985)
. Laurie (1975)
. Pachaki (2003)
. Stamps (1997)
. Strumse (1994b)
. Ulrich (1983)
234 M. Tveit et al.
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Table 1. (Continued)
Concept Synonyms References
Historicity . Historical continuity . Fairclough et al. (1999)
. Historical richness . Fairclough (1999)
. Fairclough & Rippon (2002)
. Girardin & Weinstoerffer (2003)
. Go
n & de Lucı
o (1999)
. Hendriks et al. (2000)
. Hooke (2000)
. Ha
ll (1999)
. Lowenthal (1979)
. Lowenthal (1985)
. van Mansvelt & Kuiper (1999)
. McNab & Lambrick (1999)
. Strumse (1994a)
. Strumse (1994b)
. Yahner & Nadenicek (1997)
Visual scale . Landscape room . Appleton (1975)
. Visibility . Bell (1999)
. Openness . Clay & Smidt (2004)
. Enclosure . Forestry Commission (1989)
. Spaciousness . Germino et al. (2001)
. Gulinck et al. (1999)
. Hanyu (2000)
. Herzog (1984)
. Herzog (1989)
. Kaplan & Kaplan (1982)
. Kaplan & Kaplan (1989)
. Laurie (1975)
. Lynch & Gimblett (1992)
. Nasar et al. (1983)
. Ode & Fry (2002)
Stamps (2004)
. Swanwick (2002)
. Vining et al. (1984)
. Weinstoerffer & Girardin (2000)
. Wing & Johnson (2001)
Imageability . Sense of place . Bell (1993)
. Genius loci . Bell (1999)
. Grandness . Forestry Commission (1989)
. Place identity . Green (1999)
. Vividness . Litton (1972)
. Uniqueness . Litton et al. (1974)
. Lynch (1960)
. van Mansvelt & Kuiper (1999)
. Norberg-Schulz (1980)
. Pachaki (2003)
. Proshansky et al. (1970)
. Proshansky et al. (1976)
. Tuan (1974)
. USDA (1995)
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Table 1. (Continued)
Concept Synonyms References
Complexity . Diversity . Angileri & Toccolini (1993)
. Variety . Bell (1999)
. Richness . Bureau of Land Management (1984)
. Spatial pattern/combination . Buhyoff & Riesenman (1979)
. Countryside Commision (1993)
. Dearden (1987)
. Dramstad et al. (2001)
. Fjellstad et al. (2001)
. Forestry Commission (1989)
. Germino et al. (2001)
. Hands & Brown (2002)
. Hanyu (2000)
. Herzog (1989)
. Hunziker & Kienast (1999)
. Kaplan & Kaplan (1989)
. Kuiper (1998)
. Kuiper (2000)
. Laurie (1975)
. Litton (1972)
. Litton et al. (1974)
. Ode & Fry (2002)
. Palmer (2004)
. Stamps (2004)
. Swanwick (2002)
. USDA (1995)
. Weinstoerffer & Girardin (2000)
Naturalness . Intactness . Anderson (1991)
. Wilderness . Clay & Smidt (2004)
. Natural . Dearden (1987)
. Ecological robust . Gobster (1999)
. Vegetation health . Green (1999)
. Hands & Brown (2002)
. Hanyu (2000)
. Hartig (1993)
Hartig et al. (2003)
. Herzog (1989)
. Herzog et al. (2003)
. Ha
ll et al. (2004)
. Kaplan (1977)
. Kaplan & Kaplan (1989)
. Laurie (1975)
. Lindhagen & Ho
rnsten (2000)
. Litton et al. (1974)
. Macaulay Land Use Research
Institute & Edinburgh College of Art
. Nasar & Li (2004)
. Ode & Fry (2002)
. Orland (1988)
. Purcell & Lamb (1998)
236 M. Tveit et al.
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example is accessibility, which is a function of landscape structure (for example
presence of obstacles or paths) and also of the mobility and other attributes of the
observer. We have also excluded concepts related to the observer’s values and to
specific landscape evaluation techniques (for example willingness to pay for a view).
This delimiting of the scope of this paper should not be seen as an underestimation
of the importance of function and value related to visual concepts. As stated
previously, we find an integrative theoretical framework the most appropriate for
landscape research, taking into account both our common evolutionary history and
cultural and personal differences. What we want to focus on in this paper is a
framework for describing landscape visual character. We believe function- and
value-related concepts are more tied to the cultural and personal characteristics of
the observer, and fit more into an evaluat ive framework, which is not the focus of
this paper. However, the work reported in this paper can be a useful contribution to
future research on the relationships between visual landscape structure and visual
quality and value.
Visual Concepts
The review presented an interesting challenge in matching and finding common
denominators in the vocabulary used to describe visual aspects of landscape.
The initial review comprised a large variety of sources, which together form the basis
for the conceptual framework describing visual character as developed and presented
in this paper. In Table 1, nine key concepts are presented with synonyms used within
the reviewed literature and references for each concept. The literature used includes
references covering different types of landscape, such as forest, agricultural and
coastal, in different geographical regions. However, the focus has been on European
agricultural landscapes. We are aware that this review does not cover all published
Table 1. (Continued)
Concept Synonyms References
. Real et al. (2000)
. Taylor et al. (2002)
. van Mansvelt & Kuiper (1999)
Ephemera . Seasonal change (human . Akbar et al. (2003)
imposed and natural) . Clay & Daniel (2000)
. Weather changes . Gourlay and Slee (1998)
. Hands and Brown (2002)
. Hendriks et al. (2000)
. Hull & McCarthy (1988)
. Højring & Caspersen (1999)
. Jorgensen et al. (2002)
. Litton (1972)
. Litton et al. (1974)
. Morgan (1999)
. Pachaki (2003)
. Trent et al. (1987)
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material related to visual quality assessment, but it provides a large enough sample
for the development of a theoretical framework for visual character assessment and
reflects an increasing agreement of the key concepts in the recent literature.
In this review, the nine key concepts identified reflect the dominant or rapidly
growing aspects of the visual landscape as visual guidelines and in the research
literature. The framework developed around these nine concepts is aimed to increase
the understanding of what theoretical concept indicators are showing by making the
linkage between theory an d indicator clearer. This will be a valuable support for
increasing the understanding of the visual aspects of planning and monitoring
landscape change. Although we found that visual concepts are used under various
synonyms in the references, we have tried to be consistent and derive a set of visual
concepts with minimum overlap. Howev er, this is not to claim that these visual
concepts or the landscape structures that contribute to them are independent. Some
of the concepts may be mutually exclusive, while others may overlap in certain
contexts. This we elaborate on further in the discussion.
. Concept: we define stewardship as the presence of a sense of order and care,
contributing to a perceiv ed accordance to an ‘ideal’ situation. Stewardship
reflects human care for the landscape through active and careful management.
. Dimensions: sense of order; sense of care; upkeep.
. Landscape attributes: signs of use/non-use; vegetation succession; buildings,
linear features (fences, paths etc.) management detail; drainage; waste.
. Potential indicators: percentage of abandoned land and stage of succession;
status of maintenance of buildings; management type and frequency ; length and
condition of linear features (for example fences and walls); presence of waste; wet
areas in crop fields; presence of weed.
In the literature, several synonymous and interchangeable terms are used to express
stewardship. These include upkeep (Girardin & Weinstoerffer, 2003; Weinstoerffer &
Girardin, 2000), careful management (van Mansvelt & Kuiper, 1999) and care
(Nassauer, 1995, 1997). The terms have been used in relation to land management,
including farming procedures and the maintenance of buildings and elements in
agricultural landscapes. The term upkeep also relates to management intensity
(Girardin & Weinstoerffer, 2003). Van Mansvelt and Kuiper (1999) expressed that
good maintenance or upkeep of cultivated elements in the landscape shows that the
land is well kept and cared for. Nassauer (1997, p. 68) has identified an ‘‘aesthetic of
care’’, parallel to the aesthetic of the scenic. In order to analyse the presence of care
in the landscape ‘‘cues of care’’ are used (Nassauer, 1995). These cues are familiar to
us all and tell us whether the landscape is well looked after or not; they include
mowing, tidy fences and footpaths, bright flowers, and trimmed, straight edges. The
concept of care is taken further by Sheppard (2001), who develops an aesthetic
theory of care to supplement scenic and ecological theories. In this perspect ive, cues
of care (visible stewardship) are argued to be consistent with other theories of
aesthetic pre ference, such as the human habitat theory of Orians (1980), and socio-
cultural theories that link sustainability with stewardship.
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Coeterier (1996) argues that optimal maintenance standards may depend on the
context. Too much or too little maintenance may be valued negatively, where too
much maintenance results in an artificial and sterile landscape, while too little looks
shabby and uncared for. He argues that modern landscapes tolerate less neglect and
carelessness than traditional rural landscapes because of the generally higher
intensity of use now.
. Concept: we define coherence as a reflection of the unity of a scene, where
coherence may be enhanced through repeating patterns of colour and texture.
Coherence is also a reflection of the correspondence between land use and natural
conditions in an area.
. Dimensions: harmony; unity/holistic; land-use suitability.
. Landscape attributes: land use; water; pattern.
. Potential indicators: percentage land use in correspondence with natural
conditions; water presence and its spatial location; repeating colours and
The concept of coherence or unity is developed and used both within the professional
approach to landscape assessment (see, for example, Bell, 1999) and within
environmental psychology (see, for example, Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). Interchange-
able terms found and used in the literature are harmony, readability of a landscape
and unity. Visual impact assessment often uses the term unity as ‘‘the degree to which
all visual elements combine to form a coherent, harmonious pattern’’ (Federal
Highways Administration, 1979, p. 58).
Kaplan & Kaplan (1989) suggest that a coherent landscape setting contributes to
one’s ability to make sense of the environment through providing a sense of order
and directing the attention of the observer. Bell defines coherence as: ‘‘the ability
to see and comprehend the pattern inherent in a scene (the opposite to chaos)’’
(1999, p. 85). Coherence enhances people’s ability to orient themselves, both in
time and space, which is dependent on the readability of the landscape (van
Mansvelt & Kuiper, 1999). Another dimens ion of coherence is the comprehension
of unity where the whole is more significant than the parts. Van Mansvelt and
Kuiper (1999) refer to unity as an added value, one that is not pos sessed by any of
the single elements of the landscape but arises from their combined effect. Thus,
the character of the whole is more important than that of the parts. Bell (1999)
also explains coherence in terms of an ordered landscape structure that we can
understand and where comprehension of the whole is more significant than that of
the individual parts.
Several authors use coherence as an expression of land-use suitability, e.g. the
relationship between actual land use and natural conditions. According to Kuiper
(1998) and van Mansvelt and Kuiper (1999), landscape patterns should reflect the
underlying physical processes that have shaped the landscape in order to be
coherent. A coherent landscape should reflect its basis in geomorphology (vertical
coherence), the interconnectedness of its elements and structure as a whole
(horizontal coherence) , and the development of landscape through time and in
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response to seasonal or vernal patterns (temporal coherence) (van Mansvelt &
Kuiper, 1999). See also ephemera.
Water features are given special attention in the literature in relation to coherence.
Water bodies often form characteristic patterns in the landscape; usually perceived
as harmonious and with focal quality, thus adding to the coherence of the scene
(Litton et al., 1974). Water is also seen as adding to the sense of orderliness in a
landscape (Kaplan, 1977).
. Concept: we define disturbance as lack of contextual fit and coherence, where
elements deviate from the context. Disturbance is related to constructions and
interventions occurring in the landscape, of both temporary and permanent
. Dimensions: lack of contextual fit; lack of coherence.
. Landscape attributes: extraction; natural disturbance (for example: fire and
windfall); constructions (for example: motorway; infrastructure; urban elements;
temporary constructions).
. Potential indicators: number of disturbing elements; percentage area impacted by
disturbance, visibility of disturbing elements.
Disturbance is referred to in the literature mostly in connection with perceived
interventions, constructions and landscape change. Visual disturbance is mostly
created by man-made elements that have a disruptive effect due to their size,
incongruous style or lack of integration in a specific context (Bell, 1993; Pachaki,
2003). In visual impact analysis, it is presumed that introducing certain types of
elements is experienced as a disturbance in the landscape (Institute of Environmental
Assessment & The Landscape Institute, 2002), where a negative effect of landscape
change (disturbance) is defined as being ‘‘at a complete variance with the landform,
scale and pattern of the landscape; would permanently degrade, diminish or destroy
the integrity of valued characteristic features, elements, and/or their setting’’ (p. 140).
ndez et al. (2004) discussed the disturbing impact of human interventions in
landscapes, emphasizing the need to reduce the visual contrast between the
introduced element and its setting.
Hopkinson (1971) quantified the loss of amenity resulting from the introduction of
large disturbing artefacts as a Visual Intrusion Index. The Visual Magnitude rating
of Iverso n (1985) provides another measurement for assessing visual disturbance, as
it calculates the relative size of a landscape unit as viewed from either ground-based
or above-ground points. Stamps (1997) suggested that the intensity of visual impacts
can be measured with a scientific paradigm for distinguishing significant from non-
significant visual impacts. The British Columbia (BC) Forest Service calculates
Visual Alteration as human-made landscape alterations caused by activities such as
forestry, mining, road construction, utility co rridors and agriculture, as part of their
Visual Landscape Inventory procedures (BC Ministry of Forests, 1997). These
measurements also take into account the relative sensitivity to disturbance of an
area. Ulrich (1983) discusses the impact of man-made features in natural settings,
quoting Wohlwill’s studies on fittingness or congruity and his definition of
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fittingness: ‘‘the sense of harmony or clashing between a man-made feature and its
natural background’’. Suggested aspects of fittingness are colour contrast, textural
contrast, size and congruity of shape (Ulrich, 1983).
In landscape design, approaches have been developed for assessing such intrusions
and how to reduce their effect in the landscape by careful and sensi tive planning
(Bell, 1993; Forestry Commission, 1989). The US Bureau of Land Management’s
Visual Contrast Rating analysis of disturbance takes into account both context
dependency and possible mitigation of disturbance through design (Bureau of Land
Management, 1980).
. Concept: we define historicity as determined by two dimens ions, historical
continuity and historical richness. Historical continuity reflects the visual
presence of different time layers, also influenced by the age of the layers, while
historical richness relates to the amount, condition and diversity of cultural
. Dimensions: historical continuity; historical richness.
. Landscape attributes: visible time layers; cultural elements (for example, historical
agricultural buildings, grave mounds, ruins, cairns, signs of earlier cultivation,
fences, stone walls, historical roads and paths); traditional agricultural structures.
. Potential indicators: presence of cultural elements; shape and type of linear
historical elements; age of historical elements; number of time layers; percentage
area of historic continuity; presence of traditional land use and pattern.
Several researchers have found that historicity and the presence of historical elements
‘‘enlarge today’s landscapes’’ (Lowenthal, 1985, p. 248) and are important for
landscape perception and preference (see, for example, Ha
ll, 1999; Strumse,
1994a). Hooke (2000) and Lowenthal (1979) discussed the importance of reminders of
our heritage in our landscapes, also for the perspectives of landscapes of the present
time. With reference to historical continuity, Yahner and Nadenicek (1997) argue that
landscapes that contain both past and present can provide their residents with a feeling
of community integrity and richness. This historical continuity gives the landscape a
depth of meaning and a sense of time, providing recreational resources and enhancing
landscape aesthetics. Ha
ll (1999) suggests that traditional Swedish red cottages
and fences increase the attractiveness of Swedish cultural landscapes.
A wide range of landscape attributes contribute to experienced historicity. The
English Heritage Historic Landscape Project (Fairclough et al., 1999) identified three
attributes through which a landscape’s historicity is characterized (Fairclough, 1999,
p. 14). These are historical process, time-depth and complexity/diversity. Historic
landscape characterization is described as ‘‘concerned with recognizing the many
ways in which the present countryside reflects how people have exploited and
changed their physical environment and adapted it through time’’ (Fairclough &
Rippon, 2002, p. 202).
Girardin and Weinstoerffer (2003, pp. 198 199) claim that land-use practices
contribute to the concept of historicity. Go
n and de Lucı
o (1999) discuss
changes in land use and their effect on landscape preferences, relating preferences to
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cultural components and expectations. Yahner and Nadenicek (1997) argue that
landscape elements that, through their different form, material, wear and patina,
differ from recently built structures are important for the visual quality of the
landscape. Strumse (1994b) studied single landscape elements, reporting higher
preference ratings for traditional over modern landscape elements. The state of
historical artefacts may range from those still in use to those reduced to traces and
ruins. Historic artefacts are seldom isolated, but typically form systems or
interrelated networks that we call historical environments or historic landscapes
(McNab & Lambrick, 1999).
Visual Scale
. Concept: we define visual scale by the perceptual units that reflect the experience
of landscape rooms, visibility and openness.
. Dimensions: visibility; openness; grain size.
. Landscape attributes: topography; vegetation; man made obstacle.
. Potential indicators: viewshed size; viewshed form; depth of view; degree of
openness; grain size; number of obstructing objects.
Visual scale is a concept strongly emphasized in theories relating to visual quality
and landscape preference. The concept of visual scale deals with the experience of
landscape rooms or perceptual units: their size, shape and diversity. Scale is affected
by line-of-sight and viewable area and is related to the grain size or degree of
openness in the landscape. The degree of openness is directly related to landscape
preferences (Clay & Smidt, 2004; Hanyu, 2000; Nasar et al., 1983).
The concept of spatial scale links to evolutionary theories (Kaplan & Kaplan,
1982), and to the formal aesthetic (see, for example, Bell, 1999), and encompasses
several functions established in theory, including mystery and prospect. In the
prospect and refuge theory of Appleton (1975), prospect is used to describe the
degree to which the environment provides an ove rview, and is claimed to be
important in landscape preferences. Germino et al. (2001) described the degree of
prospect as the depth and aerial extent of the view. Mystery, as put forward by
Kaplan & Kapla n (1989), describes the degree to which a viewer is drawn into a
landscape by the intrigue of what lies ahead, which in turn is related to the ability of
the viewer to see the landsca pe and hence a function of the scale.
Several methods for analysing visual scale have been developed based on
techniques of visibility analysis in a geographical information system (GIS)
environment (Germino et al., 2001; Gulinck et al., 1999; Lynch & Gimblett, 1992;
Stamps, 2004; Wing & Johnson, 2001). Another approach suggest ed by Weinstoerffer
and Girardin (2000) uses openness as an indicator that is defined by the ease with
which an observer can obtain an extensive view over the landscape. In this context,
forest and linear wooded margins are typical landscape objects restricting the view.
. Concept: we define imageability as qualities of a landscape present in totality or
through elements; landmarks and special features, both natural and cultur al,
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making the landscape create a strong visual image in the observer, and making
landscapes distinguishable and memorable.
. Dimensions: spirit of place; genius loci; uniqueness/distinctiveness; vividness.
. Landscape attributes: spectacular elements; panorama; landmarks; water; iconic
. Potential indi cators: viewpoints; presence of spectacular, unique or iconic
elements and landmarks; presence of historic elements and patterns, presence
of water bodies, percentage area of moving water.
This concept refers to the elements in a landscape or its total impression which
create a strong visual image in the observer, and make landscapes distinguishable
and memorable. It covers a range of synonymous or closely related concepts, such
as spirit of place or genius loci (Norberg-Schulz, 1980), vividness (Litton et al.,
1974) and imageability (Lynch, 1960). Spirit of place has been defined by Bell as
‘‘where the landscape has a special quality of uniqueness that is identifiable’ (1999,
p. 96). According to Bell, the ‘‘spirit of a place’’ is ‘‘sometimes known as Genius
loci, when it is especially intense and associated with landscapes capable of
producing sensations of beauty or sublimity’’ (1999, p. 96). Vividness is defined as
‘‘that quality in a landscape which gives it distinction and makes it visually
striking’’ (Litton, 1972, p. 285). Litton et al. (1974) have linked vividness strongly
to water bodies. Imageability was defined by Lynch as ‘‘the quality in a physical
object which gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given
observer’’ (1960, p. 9).
The concept of imageability relates strongly to concepts within environmental
psychology such as familiarity and place identity. However, it is important to
clarify that imageability as used in this paper relates to the features in the
landscape, not the psychological processes in the viewer. This makes it differ from
concepts referring to the landscape shaping the viewer’s identity as used by
human geographers, environmental psychologists, planners and landscape
architects, described in the sense that an individual’s identity depends on their
physical setting (Bell, 1999; Green, 1999; Proshansky et al., 1970; Proshansky
et al., 1976). The connection between what we call imageability (the ‘ident ity’
of a landscape) and cultural or personal identity is important, and we
acknowledge that the identity of a place can support and develop cultural or
personal identity for the people living in the area (Lynch, 1960; Tuan, 1974).
However, as this paper focuses on concepts related to landsca pe structure, the
concept of imageability defined here describes properties of the physical landscape
Used in this context , imageability applies to qualities that are special for a
landscape and hence make the place distinguishable from other places (Green,
1999). These physical qualities provide the landscape with a strong identity and
often grandness. Imageability is increased by special landscape features, which
contribute to forming and enhan cing a landscape’s character and thereby
strengthen the image it creates in the observer. These special features can be
natural, such as landform and the presence of water, or cultural elements, with a
strong symbolism (Green, 1999). According to van Mansvelt and Kuiper (1999,
p. 126), visible signs of a landscape’s history contribute to imageability.
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. Concept: we define complexity as the diversity and richness of landscape elements
and features, their interspersion as well as the grain size of the landscape.
. Dimensions: diversity; variation; complexity of patterns and shapes.
. Landscape attributes: linear features; point features; land cover; land form.
. Potential indicators: number of objects and types; evenness index; dominance
index; diversity indices; shape diversity; size variation indices; heterogeneity
indices; edge density; aggregation indices.
Complexity has been identified as a key concept of visual quality (see, for example,
Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Litton, 1972), and is used in the practice of landscape
assessment (see, for example, Bell, 1999; Countryside Commission, 1993). It has been
identified as of importance in forest landscapes, in management guidelines (Ode &
Fry, 2002) and for landscape preferences (Stamps, 2004).
Researchers have suggested different forms of complexity. Kaplan & Kaplan
(1989) define complexity ‘‘. . . in terms of the number of different visual elements in a
scene; how intricate the scene is; its richness’’ (p. 53). They divide complexity into
types, with or without order (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). Complexity with order
provides visual richness to a scene, while disordered complexity can be considered as
a chaotic component (Hanyu, 2000). Litton (1972) stresses the need for order and
organization in order for high complexity to be able to indicate high aesthetic
quality. Kuiper (2000) suggests measurements of diversity at different scales, or grain
sizes. These measurements include the diversity of landscape types, landscape units,
elements and species. Kuiper (1998, 2000) emphasizes that there is no relationship
between diversity at different scales and that a given level of diversity is not perceived
in the same way in different landscapes.
Weinstoerffer and Girardin (2000) focus on the farm level, and assess diversity
through shape, linear and point diversity indices. In a study by Germ ino et al. (2001),
complexity is divided up into two properties (or dimensions): diversity and edge.
Diversity refers to the abundance and evenness of land -cover classes in the view, and
edge refers to the amount of edge dividing up land-cover types.
Complexity is one of the visual concepts for which there has been an active
development in indicators, mainly in relation to landscape ecology, but also visual
indicators (see, for example, Dramstad et al ., 2001; Fjellstad et al., 2001; Hunziker &
Kienast, 1999; Palmer, 2004). However, few studies focus on what actually
constitutes complexity with regard to landscape elements and how these relate to
preferences. Which elements in the view contribute most to diversity and to what
extent spatial patterns of these elemen ts are important are some of the questions that
would benefit from further studies.
. Concept: we define naturalness as closeness to a preconceived natural state.
. Dimensions: intactness; wilderness; natural; ecologically robust.
. Landscape attributes: natural feature; structural integrity of vegetation; vegeta-
tion/land-cover type; water; management; patch shape; edge shape.
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. Potential indicators: fractal dimension; vegetation intactness; percentage area
with permanent vegetation cover; presence of water; percentage area water;
presence of natural feature; lack of management; management intensity (type and
frequency), naturalism index, degree of wilderness.
Both environmental psychologists (Purcell & Lamb, 1998) and supporters of the
ecological aesthetic (Gobster, 1999) see naturalness as a key aspect of visual quality.
Within environmental psychology, the concept of naturalness is linked to
evolutionary theories of preferences (Purcell & Lamb, 1998). The ecological aesthetic
interprets landscape preferences from an ethical perspective, arguing that a
landscape known to be ecologically robust will be preferred (Gobster, 1999). Studies
have shown relationships between the naturalness of a scene and human restorati on
or stress recovery (Hartig et al., 2003 ; Herzog et al., 2003). Taylor et al. (2002) found
that improved school performance and self-discipline of children related to the
vegetation in their home environments.
Naturalness, as a concept, is generally used to describe how close a landscape is to
a perceived natural state. Perceived naturalness can thus be different from ecological
naturalness. Clay and Smidt (2004) evaluat ed descriptor variables used by agencies
assessing scenic quality along roads, and presented naturalness as one of four most
common descriptors used (related descriptors were intactness and naturalism). They
explicitly made no distinction between ‘ecological’ naturalness and landscapes only
appearing to be natural. Perceived naturaln ess is context dependent in the sense that
what is perceived as naturalness in an urban setting might not be seen as such in a
more natural context.
A typical distinction in landscape assessment is between natural and artificial/man
made (Green, 1999; van Mansvelt & Kuiper, 1999) or between semi-natural and
man-made (see, for example, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute & Edinburgh
College of Art, 2004). Parameters for assessing naturalness include indications that
the landscape has developed naturally; na tural elements, lines, patterns and
materials; the presence of natural and semi-natural small biotopes and old trees
(van Mansvelt & Kuiper, 1999). Hanyu (2000) assessed naturalness as the cover of
trees, flowers and other vegetation in residential scenes.
Naturalness has been found to enhance landscape preference (see, for example,
ll et al., 2004; Hands & Brown, 2002). Real et al. (2000), in their study in
northwestern Spain, found naturalness as part of a constellation of characteristics
common to preferred landscapes. On the other hand, studies of forest preferences
have shown that a high degree of naturalness, as found in virgin forests, is not
always perceived as positive (see, for example, Lindhagen & Ho
rnsten, 2000). These
findings indicate that the relationship between naturalness and preference is not
necessarily linear. Vegetation is clearly important in de termining visual preferences,
but the degree of actual rather than perceived naturalness may be less important
(Purcell & Lamb, 1998). Studies often fail to present clear and quantifiable
definitions of perceived naturalness. In contrast, quantitative ecological definitions
of naturalness have been presented by ecologists (see, for example, Anderson,
Water is seen as a key element shaping human landscape preferences (Kaplan,
1977; Litton et al., 1974), and it is argued that this is partly through its
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contribution to perceived naturalness (Real et al., 2000). Thus preference for
water fits with general human preference for naturalness as expressed in environ-
mental psychology theories (see, for example, Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Nasar &
Li, 2004).
. Concept: we define ephemera as elements and land-cover types changing with
season and weather.
. Dimensions: seasonal change (human imposed and natural); weather related
. Landscape attributes: land cover/vegetation; animals; land use (ploughing,
etc.); water (colour reflections and waves); weather.
. Potential indicators: percentage of land cover with seasonal change; presence of
animals; presence of cyclical farming activities; percentage area water; projected
and reflected images; presence of weather characteristics.
The concept of ephemera relates to landscape changes throughout the year and
in response to weather conditions, which give short-term effects contributing to
landscape perception. Litton (1972) uses the term ‘time variability’ in order to
capture these, defining them as ‘‘the effect of natural phenomena occurring at a given
point in time, producing a visual product that is charact eristic of that moment’’
(p. 272). Pachaki (2003, p. 243) described such elements under the name of ‘‘special
effects’’. Højring and Caspersen (1999) and Trent et al. (1987) have argued that
ephemeral phenomena are important elements of landscape experience, also as
permanent features in the aesthetic potential of the landscape. Colour, and especially
variety of colours, has been found to have positive effects on preferences (Hands &
Brown, 2002), lending importance to ephemeral changes in vegetation colour.
Flowers, in particular, have been found to have positive effects on preferences
(Akbar et al., 2003; Gourlay & Slee, 1998), although Jorgensen et al. (2002)
suggested that plants that are attractive during the flowering season might actually
have negative visual impact outside the flowering season. Weather-related elements,
such as mist and snow, are also defined as ephemera l elements.
Water is a key feature of the concept of ephemera as it gives quite different
expressions as a result of weather, seasons, etc. A lake will enhance the colour effects
in autumn by reflecting vegetation colour; its surface will change as it ripples in the
wind or freezes in the winter. As Litton et al. put it: ‘‘ . . . the reflective patterns which
are altered by the wind, wave action, and the light, and patterns of colour which
derive from both sky and bottom are some of the major textural qualities which give
water its fascination’’ (1974, p. 237).
A Framework for Assessing Visual Quality
This review presents a theory-based framework for analysing visual character. We
see it as a strength of the framework that it is transparent and thereby open to
criticism and development by peers. This framework is based on nine key visual
concepts, namely stewardship, coherence, disturbance, historicity, visual scale,
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imageability, complexity, naturalness and ephemera. These nine visual concepts are
described through their visual dimensions, the physical landscape attributes contri-
buting to the dimensions, and finally through mappable and quantifiable visual
indicators. This framework can be an impor tant contribution to the compilation of
information needed to assess landscape character.
Interrelated Concepts
Although the nine concepts are presented independently, they are interrelated and
work together to form the totality of the visual landscape. The nature of these
interrelationships and their integration are not fully understood. They can vary
between landscape types where some concepts enforce each other and others cancel
each other out. Some concepts are more closely linked than others, or are
overlapping, while some may be interpreted as opposites. Examples of opposite
concepts might be coherence disturbance or stewardship naturalness. However,
describing these pairs as opposites to each other is also an oversimplification. This is
shown in Figures 2 5, where the nine visual concepts presented in this paper have
been applied to photographs of European landscapes according to the physical
Figure 2. A recreation landscape in Zealand, Denmark. This landscape shows a high degree of
disturbance and complexity due to the patterns made by the recreation activities. The
recreational area shows little consideration of the context and hence the landscape scores low
in coherence, naturalness and historicity. This provides a character to the landscape, and
hence imageability. There is a limited degree of visible stewardship within the photo. Due to
the dominance of grass vegetation, seasonal changes will be present, though not dramatic. The
visual scale of the landscape is medium. Source: Photo by A
sa Ode.
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landscape attributes apparent in the images. From the figures, we can see that
contrasting concepts (e.g. coherence disturbance; stewardship naturalness) are not
always at opposite ends of the scale. The examples illustrate how combinations of
these concepts manage to capture and describe different aspects of the visual
Non-linear Relationships between Concepts and Visual Quality
The interpretation of the expression of each concept in the figures does not reflect
absolute measures, but more an illustration of how combinations of concepts differ
between landscapes. This is likely to be a useful tool in characterizing the visual
landscape. We emphasize that these are not normative scales that can be interpreted
as the higher the value, the higher the visual quality. Increasing values in some
concepts may mean increased visual quality, or they may be related to visual quality
up to a threshold and then decrease. For example, increasing stewardship may lead
to increased visual quality, up to a point. After this, it may be perceived as too
ordered or unnatural and hence visual quality may decrease. Knowledge concerning
how changes in landscape structural attributes affect perceived visual quality in
different contexts is urgently required for asses sing the impacts of landscape change.
Figure 3. A Scottish riverside in the Cairngorms, with native Scots pine. This landscape is
perceived as a natural landscape with a high degree of coherence, imageability and complexity.
The water, together with the grazed areas, results in seasonal changes. There is a limited degree
of stewardship related to extensive grazing. There is a feeling of timelessness, though no
evidence of historical elements are found in the photo. There are no signs of intrusive elements
in the landscape. Source: Photo by A
sa Ode.
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Context-Dependent Concepts
The relative importance or weighting of the different concepts in shaping perceived
visual quality will depend on the context. Purcell et al. (2001) showed this context
dependency for landscape types. An investigation into perceived naturalness of
different landscape types in the Netherlands showed that what is perceived as
natural in an urban setting might not be seen as such in a rural setting (de Groot &
van den Born, 2003). Regarding disturbance, the context of introduced elements
will determine the visual impact perceived by the viewer. In preference studies,
modern scenes with human dominance and urban elements lacking visual integ-
ration in the existing landscape character tend to be the least preferred (Strumse,
Observer-Dependent Concepts
The interrelationships between the concepts and how they work together in shaping
visual landscape quality will also depend on the observer. Visual concepts are given
different relative weights by different peo ple and according to the purpose of the
observation. An ecologist might, for example, give a higher weighting to naturalness
than to historicity, whereas an archaeologist assessing the same landscape might do
Figure 4. An agricultural landscape in Zealand, Denmark. This landscape is a flat agricultural
landscape, providing high visibility and a fairly low degree of naturalness. The intrusion of
roads and power lines represents limited disturbance and a certain degree of coherence
remains. The mixture of different types of farming provides a degree of complexity,
stewardship and ephemera through seasonal changes. The landscape has only limited signs of
a history through buildings. Source: Photo by A
sa Ode.
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the opposite. Some visual concepts are probably less sensitive to cultural and personal
background than others. Theory and empirical preference studies suggest that some
key drivers of visual landscape experience are general, such as features related to
visual scale (openness) or complexity (readability) (see, for example, Appleton, 1975;
Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). On the other hand, the relative importance of concepts like
historicity and imageability in determining visual quality is probably more dependent
on the personal and cultural attributes of the observer.
Effects on Landscape Preferences
Even though the visual concepts presented are descriptive rather than normative,
theory suggests that there is a relationshi p between the visual concepts and human
landscape preferences. The literature provides us with an indication of the nature of
this relationship for some of the concepts, but further empirical evidence is urgently
needed. For instance, studies have shown that preferences increase with increasing
stewardship (Nassauer, 1997) and naturalness (Ha
ll et al., 2004). Further
Figure 5. A Slovenian mountain landscape. This is a mountain landscape with a strong
imageability and historicity related to the church and traditional agricultural structures. The
neatness and tidiness, together with the presence of well-tended elements and crop fields, are
strong visual cues of stewardship. The broadleaved forest, together with the grazed and small
crop fields, provides a high degree of ephemera. The mix between well-managed areas and the
broadleaved forest gives a limited degree of complexity and naturalness, and there is a fairly
high degree of coherence in the landscape. The vegetation, together with the landform, limits
visibility and hence visual scale. There are no intrusive elements in the scene and hence a low
degree of disturbance. Source: Photo by A
sa Ode.
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testing of the effects of landscape changes on human landscape preferences is
necessary in order to use the framework for assessing visual quality.
We have identified nine visual concepts and for each of them described four levels of
abstraction down to their physical express ion in the landscape. This framework
provides a transparent and theory-based framework for assessing visual character.
The framework can be a useful first step in establishing visual indicators that can
help us to quantify, measure and compare landscapes and the effects of landscape
change on visual character. This strengthening of the conceptual basis for landscape
assessment is important, as it increases the understanding of what we want visual
indicators to show.
During our work on investigating the conceptual base for visual assessment, we
have identified a wide range of currently used visual indicators. However, the
empirical testing of many of these visual indicators is lacking. We see a necessity to
test the applicability of visual indicators in different context s and landscape types, in
order to be able to provide a comprehensive framework for landsca pe assessment,
including the development of visual indicators. We suggest that this should be the
emphasis of further studies on visual landscape assessment and aesthetic qualities of
This work has been funded by the EU-project VisuLands, QLRT-2001-01017. The
authors would like to thank their partners in the VisuLands project for valuable
input to the process of writing this paper and analysing visual concepts.
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... The time-series analysis illustrated in Figure 11 shows how the aesthetic contributions of landscapes change over the course of a year in the national parks of Britain. The influence of seasonality on landscape quality, defined as 'ephemera' in the landscape aesthetics literature (Tveit et al., 2006), is notably captured. Such granularity can greatly benefit ES assessments requiring regular updates, such as those performed for the purposes of ecosystem accounting in the context of national annual accounts of economic production (Hein et al., 2020a). ...
... Common indicators include the presence of natural ecosystems, water, elevation, as well as spatial indices of landscape complexity such as the Patch Diversity Index (PDI) and the Shannon Diversity Index (SDI)(Hermes et al., 2018;Schirpke et al., 2013;Uuemaa et al., 2009). The application of these indicators are based on visual concepts and theories developed in the landscape aesthetics literature(Ode et al., 2008;Tveit et al., 2006). However, crucially, these models do not incorporate peoples' individual interactions with the environment, an important methodological factor from an ES modelling perspective(de Groot et al., 2010;Schröter et al., 2015;Tenerelli et al., 2017). ...
... The findings of this study were comparable to those of a study by Ding and Alias (2014), Mohd Parid (2010), and Hassin et al. (2020). In this context, conservation is vital to preserving the nation's distinctive flora and fauna for current and future generations (Tveit et al., 2006). ...
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Bukit Larut, previously known as ‘Maxwell Hill’, is declared a Forest Recreation Area as part of green infrastructure that enhances the quality of life of people and boosts green tourism. However, due to the lack of a market, it is difficult to quantify the economic value of green tourism in monetary terms for these resources. Using the Contingent Valuation Method (CVM), this study aims to determine the willingness to pay (WTP) for green tourism conservation in the Forest Recreation Area of Bukit Larut, Perak. In this study, a total of 250 respondents were collected via a questionnaire distributed at random. This study assigned five different bid prices, MYR5, MYR10, MYR15, MYR20, and MYR25. The Logit Model estimates the visitor’s WTP for green tourism conservation. This study indicates that most visitors are willing to pay a certain amount for green tourism conservation, driven by race, religion, age, marital status, education level, and income. Regression analysis showed that the estimated mean visitor willingness to pay is MYR 4.69, whereas the median WTP is MYR 3.68. Therefore, it was determined that Bukit Larut’s conservation initiatives were viable for future green tourism. The financial resources would assist the management in allocating funds for conservation and maintenance.
... However, even if it is typically Swedish to have wellmaintained garden and naturelike cemeteries, across the full breadth of our interview study including other cemeteries we found an appreciation of these landscape qualities. Within landscape preference studies there is a lot of literature addressing people's preference for wellmaintained landscape or parks (Tveit et al. 2006). How ever, there are few studies focusing on the qualities of cemeteries. ...
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This article is about experiences of a cemetery landscape: a physical space that was chosen as a depository for human remains, and where different memorial and disposal practices have developed behavioural patterns that together form a cemetery culture. Through qualitative research at St Eskil’s, Eskilstuna, Sweden, encompassing field observations and interviews (N=14) with stakeholders and people from the general public, we aim to describe and discuss the cemetery as a place and environment experienced from a perspective of people of diverse backgrounds. The study reveals important characteristics that facilitate designing, caretaking, developing and using cemeteries more generally. Findings show that most interviewees, independent for example of cultural or religious adherence, describe the cemetery as a beautiful natural or garden-like place. The well-maintained landscape is emphasized as a self-evident or impressive quality. The cemetery is experienced as ‘typically Swedish’ and described in terms of order and sense of care. Diversity in both design and multi-cultural and individual expressions are observed, acknowledged and welcomed. We conclude that nature (including a garden approach), care and diversity are key concepts that should be considered in design and development of future cemeteries.
... Hauberg [26] states that design research is used to describe the various ways for generating new knowledge about the world using design methods. The approach is used to generate desirable and unexpected urban perspectives, thereby replacing modifiable but less desirable urban development [28]. The visualization method can effectively solve the problems of rural tourism design. ...
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Studies have extensively explored inclusive tourism in rural areas in the recent past. However, several forms of inclusive tourism are associated with several limitations. Firstly, few tourists travel to rural places because they consider the developed areas unattractive. Secondly, the area is not attractive because the design and services do not match the area. Thirdly, the people living in rural areas are not content and happy. The aim of the present study is to propose a visualization method-based dynamic design strategy for exploring a new balance between tourism experience and local development. The research and application of the method were conducted in two traditional Chinese villages in western Zhejiang, China. The classification of landscape services (LS) and historical landscape elements (HLE) was used to define the design goals. The visualization method was used during the whole design and construction process of revitalizing Yuan Touli village. The results showed that the method allows for easy analysis and is an efficient tool for developing participant designs based on the different roles in village tourism. The visualization method can circumvent the limitations of ensuring inclusive tourism. The design definition, study’s limitations and future research directions are presented in the study.
... However, nature experiences can also be had incidentally. An incidental experience is defined as a "sudden awareness of previously unnoticed, yet regular natural features that come to one's attention in unplanned or unexpected ways" (Beery et al., 2017, p.719), and is often related to the perceived qualities of green spaces (Tveit et al., 2006). Beery et al. (2017) argue that there is great potential for promoting incidental nature experiences if daily living activities can be encouraged towards taking place within green spaces. ...
... 43 The 'versus' -the relation between the two -points out the correspondence between land use and cover and underlying natural and hydrological conditions and processes to ultimately highlight land use suitability. 44 Yet, the fieldwork observations highlight that the consideration of that relation is cultural. Just like administrative delineations are left unacknowledged by water flows, culture does not perceive relations between landscape potential and landscape intensity. ...
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PREPRINT: Water-Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) coins water sensitivity as a goal for urban environments worldwide to strive for and develop towards. Secondary cities, however, are facing dynamics and data gaps far greater than cities in which WSUD has been conceptualised. A landscape-informed fieldwork method of walking transects and site visits, with observations cartographically represented in drawn sections, contributes to an advanced understanding of hydrological systems tied to local water cultures and practices. An understanding which shifts the definition of water sensitivity away from being a generic defined goal to being determined by local cultures and landscapes. The case of Kozhikode, India, illustrates how the consideration of a hydrocultural dimension and its spatial manifestation can be regarded as a network to secure conservation, ecosystem service provision, and potentially even expansion. As such, the hydrocultural dimension offers a valuable and novel contribution to WSUD and can facilitate its appropriation and application worldwide.
... Traditionally, urban landscape evaluators have surveyed individual preferences or satisfaction levels by printing photos on paper and distributing them to their chosen study population [10][11][12]. However, such paper-based evaluations are inefficient in both time and cost. ...
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In this paper, we verified the applicability of immersive VR technology to street-level residential landscape evaluation. We used GSV images taken from pedestrian paths in residential areas of Seoul and selected evaluation images through random sampling. Then, we conducted web-based and VR-based residential streetscape evaluation experiments with those landscape images. The VR-based streetscape evaluation results differed significantly from the web-based streetscape evaluation results. Our multi-level ordered logistic analysis confirmed that the VR-based streetscape evaluation method had better explanatory power than the web-based streetscape evaluation method. In the immersive VR-based streetscape evaluation index, the naturalness, beauty, and safety indicators had particularly high explanatory power. This study concluded that the VR-based streetscape evaluation method over the web-based method is more suitable for evaluating street scenes experienced in daily life. In addition, the innovative methodological approaches, including big data, virtual reality, and visual experiences, will also provide new insights for the planning and management of sustainable landscapes.
... Numerous previous studies surrounding ART and SRT have revealed the relationship between landscape aesthetics and psychophysiological experience, environmental preferences, and perceived recovery [24,25]. Perceived naturalness is largely used to describe the relationship between a landscape and its perceived degree of naturalness [26], which is an important factor in the preference for some landscapes [27]. People often prefer natural landscapes, such as mountain scenery and waterscapes [9], and their preference for landscape space is significantly influenced by landscape components (trees, shrubs and flowers) [28]. ...
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Background: In recent years, increasing attention has been given to the recovery effect of the forest environment on physical and mental health. Therefore, providing users with a high-quality forest landscape space is a very important research topic for forest landscape designers and forest resource managers. Main purpose: From the perspective of different seasons, this study explores the differences in landscape perceptions and physical and mental recovery of users when they experience different forest recreation spaces and the interactions between them. Methods: First, this study used virtual reality video experience and questionnaires for participants. Then, the paired-samples t test, one-way ANOVA and the independent-samples t test were used for statistical analysis. Finally, we also used structural equation models to analyze the relationship between landscape perception and recovery. Main results: (1) The restoration effect and perception of forest recreation spaces on people are influenced by space types and seasonal factors. (2) People's restoration from forest environments is a gradual process from spatial cognition to emotional response. (3) The perception of the natural attributes and form of the recreation space plays a key role in the restorative effect of the environment to people, while the natural form is more important in spring than autumn. Based on the above conclusions, we suggest that the characteristic factors of the landscape environment and their different restoration effects for users in different dimensions should be considered when planning forest recreation space.
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Two experiments were conducted to investigate different aspects of the responses of urban and rural dwellers to rural scenery. In the first, rural-landscape scenes from an upland valley in central Arizona were viewed and rated by panels of respondents residing in urban Tucson. Results indicate that highly preferred "natural' aspects of the rural landscape can be affected negatively when viewed in the context of other scenes bearing signs of development. In the second procedure, residents of the same valley and further urban respondent groups viewed scenes of natural and human-influenced rural landscapes from a variety of places with which they were unfamiliar. Responses of rural and urban dwellers are not similar for all types of landscape setting. While responses to many scenes were similar, the respondents from upland Arizona responded much more favorably to scenes of grassland and range land, the types of productive landscape common around their homes. Respondent familiarity with the type of landscape depicted appears to influence preference ratings positively, indicating the necessity for considering the differing values of residents and newcomers in planning rural communities where long-time residents and retiring or vacationing newcomers will coexist. -from Author
How do people react to the visual character of their surroundings? What can planners do to improve the aesthetic quality of these surroundings? Too often in environmental design is misunderstood as only a minor concern, dependent on volatile taste and thus undefinable. Yet a substantial body of research indicates the importance of visual quality in the environment to the public and has uncovered systematic patterns of human response to visual attributes of the built environment. With information on the subject normally scattered between disciplines, this book provides a vital service in bringing together classic and new contributions by distinguished workers in the field.
The visual landscape of forests is an important source of information for the public in judging the sustainability of forest resource management, and there is an increasing recognition of the importance of the linkage between forest ecology and aesthetics among foresters and environmental scientists. Forest resource managers pursuing the goals of ecosystem management must consider the aesthetic consequences of timber harvesting operations and find ways to explain the ecological benefits of their activities. This book addresses the relationship between people's perceptions and sustainability. It arose from a workshop organized and funded by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and the Faculty of Forestry of the University of British Columbia. After a foreword (by Gobster, P. H.), it has 17 chapters by various authors arranged in 6 parts: I. Linking ecological sustainability to aesthetics: do people prefer sustainable landscapes? (one introductory chapter by the editors); II. Seeing and knowing: approaches to aesthetics and sustainability (4 chapters); III. Perspectives on forest sustainability (3 chapters); IV. Theories relating aesthetics and forest ecology (4 chapters); V. Visualization of forest landscapes (4 chapters); and VI. Reconciling forest sustainability and aesthetics (one concluding chapter discussing priorities). Twelve (unpaginated) pages of colour plates, and a subject index are included. All the chapters are noticed separately on the CAB ABSTRACTS database.
Memory and artifacts help us to recall the past, something which is essential to the maintenance of purpose in life. Relics from a former period may be recognised by their antiquarianism or by their senescence. By recognising, celebrating, protecting, preserving and enhancing surviing elements we alter the past. Monuments and memorials affect our awareness of the past. Every trace of the past is a testament not only to the spirit of the past but also to the perspectives of the present. -C.A.Middleton