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Landscape miscellany is a collection of items in the one place. A range of issues relevant to landscapes is covered.

Topics covered:

1. History of the national interest in scenic beauty
2. Typologies of landscape research
3. Theory of landscape quality
4. 20th / 21st centuries landscape quality research
5. Findings of landscape preference studies
6. World Class landscapes
7. The aesthetics of traditional societies
8. Philosophy of aesthetics

9. Psychoanalysis and aesthetics
10. Perception, Gestalt and colour
11. Western culture and landscape
12. Landscape art
13. Parks, gardens and the pastoral landscape
14. Viewing mountains
15. The explorer's eye seeing new landscapes
16. Pricing landscape: the influence of landscape quality on house prices
17. Health and restorative benefits of viewing nature
18. Water the secret ingredient
19. Visual impacts and landscape change
20. Community Preferences Method


While scenic beauty is world-wide. the attached paper examines the development of a national interest in scenic beauty in Britain, United States and Australia. A brief summary of international initiatives is also included.
The History of the national interest in scenic quality paper is 39 pages (5.5 MB) Click here.


Typologies are classifications or types that have common characteristics. Two methods dominate landscape research, the objective approach that treats landscape quality as an intrinsic physical attribute of the landscape, and the subjective approach which regards it as beauty perceived by the brain. This paper draws on our classical and teleological cultural roots andthe philosophy of aesthetics as well as exploring the typologies of landscape research that have been proposed, to advocate the adoption of the subjective model for landscape research.

The paper on typologies of landscape research is 14 pages (0.6 MB). Click here.


Jay Appleton once likened the need for a theory of landscape quality thus: “just as the Brisbane wicket after rain used to be said to reduce all batsmen to an equal plane of incompetence, so this absence of aesthetic theory brings the professional down to the same plane as the man in the street.” In this paper four theories that have been developed to explain landscape aesthetics are examined.

The paper on the theories of landscape quality is 33 pages (1.2 MB). Click here.


During the last few decades of the 20th century and into the new millennium extensive research of landscapes has been conducted. This entirely new field of research scarcely existed before 1970. This paper briefly examines the growth of studies in the period 1960 - 2014 during which at least 1100 research papers and 290 books, theses and reports were written about landscapes.
The paper on landscape quality research is 54 pages, including over 8 pages of references (1 MB). Click here.


Since the early 1970s there have been many hundreds of studies of landscape quality based on people's aesthetic preferences. Many of the studies were undertaken as academic investigations of the factors involved in influencing these preferences. An outcome is that they provide a large body of knowledge of human landscape preferences. This paper summarises these findings in relation to land use, land form, land cover, water, naturalness, diversity, colour, sound, cloud cover plus several minor items.

The paper on the findings of landscape preference studies is 84 pages (5.5 MB) Click here


World class landscapes are those landscapes considered to be of significance at the global scale. While such landscapes will obviously be significant nationally, to be of world significance demands something more, the perfection of those qualities that we humans regard as beautiful.

In order to identify scenes of world class landscapes a range of inventories were examined where landscapes have been accorded global significance. Such inventories are at both the world scale and individual nation scale, the former obviously being the more useful. However it is evident when reviewing these inventories that no standard exists by which world class landscapes may be assessed, rather they rely on the judgement of the nominating body. Indeed it is apparent that no survey has been undertaken at the world level solely to determine landscapes of world significance. Rather, most assessments have been from a broader perspective – world heritage and wonders of the world.

The following global inventories have been reviewed:

  • World Heritage sites under the World Heritage Convention
  • 24 inventories of the Wonders of the World

Inventories also exist of particular features including volcanoes, waterfalls and caves but those of world significance are likely to have found their way onto one of these inventories.

The World Class Landscapes paper is 11 pages (3.4 MB) Click here


The Western view of landscapes that predominates is not the only way by which to view landscapes. For countless generations, traditional societies have developed very sophisticated and complex interpretations of the landscapes around them. In this chapter, four such interpretations are examined from the Australian aborigine, New Zealand Māori, the traditional Chinese, and the Tibetan. These are examples of traditional societies in which landscapes are viewed in symbolic terms, their physical features being taken to represent other entities such as ancestral beings and deities or philosophical concepts. The examples exhibit a little of the richness of human interaction and interpretation of landscapes of which the Western view is but one view.
The paper on the aesthetics of traditional societies is 17 page (2.4 MB). Click here.


Humans have long asked the questions like "what is beauty?", " why is a scene beautiful?", "what is the nature of the aesthetic experience?" Questions of aesthetics have occupied many philosophers, although less so today than in the past. Landscape is but one of many aesthetic objects.These include music, art, sculpture, human faces, architecture, poetry and natural objects. Philosophers seek to identify the common principles operating on and determining the nature of the aesthetic experience.

This paper traces through the treatment of aesthetics by philosophers, from the time of the Greeks, through the early Christian fathers to the Renaissance to modern philosphers in Britain, Germany and other nations. The paper shows the close parallels of Kant’s philosophy of aesthetics with landscape theory, in particular, that many of Kant’s concepts identified, nearly a century before Darwin, principles which can make sense through their survival-enhancing qualities. The universality of Kant’s aesthetics is reinforced by its parallels with contemporary theories of landscape aesthetics.

The paper on the philosophy of aesthetics is 24 pages (1 MB) Click here


Psychoanalysis may seem an odd subject to include in a website on landscape quality assessment but it actually offers significant insights into how we humans regard aesthetic objects, landscapes included. It penetrates the inner motivations which are often hidden, and identifies drives and influences of which we are unlikely to be even conscious.

There has been much interesting material written in psychoanalysis about artists who create aesthetic objects but that is not the focus of this paper. Rather it reviews the various approaches that psychoanalysts have formed about aesthetics and their relevance to landscape.

To understand these approaches, a brief description of psychoanalytical concepts is provided and the paper then reviews various psychoanalytical approaches to aesthetics and their relevance to landscape.  Finally, a psychoanalytical model of landscape aesthetic response is presented.

The paper on the psychoanalytical interpretation of aesthetics is 22 pages (0.2 MB). Click here


This paper examines approaches to the way humans view the world through their eyes, the basis of perception. It commences with an historical briefing followed by a review of visual perception mechanism and models and then summarises environmental psychological approaches to perception. The contemporary contributions of environmental psychology to perception are reviewed and the contemporary perspective of the Gestalt contribution is examined. The relevance of the perception theories including the Gestalt approach to landscape is reviewed. Finally a brief discussion of the perception of colour is included.

The paper on perception, Gestalt and colour is 45 pages (1.4 MB).. Click here


What are the origins of Western culture’s interest and love of landscapes? Is it a recent phenomenon or has it always been with us?

The Western approach to the aesthetic qualities of landscape has been fashioned by various strands of influence. Classical Hellenistic and Roman influences emerged again during the Renaissance and later periods. And from Christian theology developed the teleological view or natural theology of nature and landscape that together with the classical influence, dominated until the 17th and 18th centuries.

The 18th century saw immense speculation about aesthetics in Europe, with major changes resulting in cultural attitudes to aesthetic objects. The 19th century was the great age of aesthetic theory, when German philosophy dominated on the Continent and in England. Darwinian evolutionary theory created a new perspective of nature and landscape, diminishing the teleological influence and greatly expanding the search for understanding physical phenomena in every field of science. And finally, the 20th century saw these many strands combining in a synthesis of influences, added to by various strands of its own including the appreciation of wilderness and of the environment in a non-utilitarian sense.

The paper on Western culture and landscape is 38 pages (5.7 MB). Click here


Landscape paintings are so ubiquitous today that one would suppose it has always been thus. However it was not so. Prior to the Renaissance, paintings of landscapes were rare, indeed the depiction of landscapes was mainly as a backdrop to the painting, as is evident in the Mona Lisa. Gradually however landscape came to the fore until, in the 19th century, it was described by Sir Kenneth Clark as the chief artistic creation of that century.

The paper on the evolution of landscape art is 30 pages (6 MB). Click here


Gardens, parks and the pastoral landscape speak to the subconscious mind of pleasant idleness, of an absence of necessity of work, and of bounteous provision. As enclosed areas, parks and gardens isolate and insulate the individual from the external world, they cosset the individual in an environment in which time and space and the demands of life are less important for a while.

This paper examines the contribution that parks, gardens and the pastoral scene have made in influencing Western attitudes towards landscapes. The assumption is that parks and gardens, being artificial creations, reflect the idealised form of micro-landscape; their design and characteristics epitomise the ideals which society seeks from such landscapes.

The paper on the development of parks, gardens and the pastoral landscape from early civilisations to the current day is 17 pages (2 MB)
Click here


In 1657, mountains were described with epithets such as "Warts, Wens, Blisters, Tumours, Imposthumes" yet a century later, in 1769, Thomas Gray wrote of the Scottish highlands: "the mountains are ecstatic". These were not isolated descriptions, they epitomise a sea change in attitudes towards mountain landscapes that occurred in as little as fifty years during the early 18th century. The reasons for this change illustrate the influence of culture on a society's attitudes towards nature, and landscapes in particular.

The paper on the change in attitudes towards mountains is 18 pages (0.2 MB). Click here


Explorers view a new landscape with new eyes. Often they see a landscape unlike anything they have previously been exposed to. Their impressions as newcomers in a new land are therefore all the more valuable. Later, settlers will adapt and adjust to the new landscape, gradually absorbing it as they possess it as their own, but as a process this often takes several generations. An explorer is exposed to new sights and sounds with every new day, every hill they climb, every river and plain crossed and every experience they endure.

This paper examines a little of what the explorers saw as they encountered a new land. Since the Old World has been largely explored millennia ago, Australia in the New World is used as the subject land to be explored. This occurred relatively recently, largely in the century following the initial settlement in 1788.  Australia was largely explored by Europeans, in particular British explorers.

The paper on the explorers of Australia and their perception of the landscape is 51 page (9.6 MB). Click here


Real estate values provide an excellent surrogate for valuing landscape quality in monetary terms. Many studies have shown that house prices benefit from a view of a landscape.

Between 1973 and 2012 there were 27 papers covering 43 studies that have quantified the influence of landscape views on house values. Many of the studies examined the influence of water views on house prices, using the sea or lakes as the landscape and assessed the presence or absence of a view.

The contribution of the view to house values ranged from 2% to 90% with a modal average of 8% and a mean of 17.4%. Thus a property worth, say $200,000, will be worth $234,800 if it has a good view. Multiply this by the hundreds, or in some areas, thousands of properties which enjoy the view, and its worth runs into millions of dollars. Based on an average house value of say $200,000, the value of the view for 1000 homes will be $34.8 million. The amount reflects the laws of supply and demand; in locations with abundant views but little housing demand, the contribution may be slight but reverses where the demand increases with little supply.

The contribution of a view did not correlate with the house value, the same contribution occurred for houses of low and high values. The value of a view varied inversely with distance from the view, declining quite rapidly over the first few kilometres before levelling out so that even distant views provide some added value to house prices. The contribution of the view generally increased over time, presumably reflecting continuing demand but contracting supply of suitable land.

While most of the studies were in western nations (US, New Zealand and Holland), five studieswere in the east (Singapore, Hong Kong and Guangzhou)and found similar results, ranging from 2% to 15% value adding.

In addition to these studies of house values, a study in Switzerland examined the profit derived from two hotels in and near Zurich that offered views over the lake and Alps compared with views without these. It found for one hotel an annual difference of US$0.45 m and for the other US$1.74 m. In present value terms, these added $4.3 m and $16.3 m to their property value.

While not a perfect surrogate of the value of landscape quality, these studies demonstrate that house prices can benefit very significantly from a view of an attractive landscape.

The paper which documents the pricing of landscape is 14 pages (0.2 MB). Click here


Natural scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system. Frederick Olmstead, 1865.

The quote, one of many about the healing benefits of nature, contends that nature heals and enriches the mind and body. Whether this is so has been the subject of much research over recent years and the universal conclusion has been that viewing and experiencing nature provides substantial emotional and physiological benefits. Comparing scenes of nature with scenes of urban areas, our preferences for nature are twice that of urban scenes while the restorative benefits that come from nature are at least three times that of urban exposure.

The research has used a range of psychological and physiological measures to evaluate the changes from exposure to nature and urban environments. Two theoretical approaches underlie the research: Roger Ulrich’s psycho-evolutionary theory in which positive emotional and physiological effects of experiences with nature have survival benefits; and Stephen and Rachel Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory in which the restorative exposure to nature helps the individual overcome directed attention fatigue.

As well as testing the theories through viewing or walking in urban and natural areas, studies also examined the effects of varying window views on patients and students and the effect of posters and murals in offices. In public housing areas, studies examined the effect of trees and grass in the surrounds on levels of aggression and violence in the units and crime in the area. A study in Holland found the amount of green space in the area positively affected perceived health of the individual.

The paper documentes these health and restorative studies and is 61 pages (0.7 MB). Click here


Why does water elicit such a strong response from people? Why can just a glimpse of water yield the same response as a large expanse? Why are ratings of landscapes invariably lifted by the presence of water in lakes, rivers or the sea? What is it about water that compared with any other feature in the landscape, gives it an inordinate influence way out of proportion to its extent? 

The paper which explores this fascination with water and provides a possible explanation is 11 pages (0.2 MB). Click here.


Landscapes are never constant but change over time, seasonally as well as over longer periods. The unforeseen visual impacts of developments have often marred landscapes. The routing of powerlines between a road and an outstanding view, the construction of wind farms on beautiful landscapes and the development of resorts on formerly pristine coastlines are examples. The technology now exists - digital photography, computing power and programs to insert and remove features from photographs - to assess the potential visual impact of developments. Many studies have now applied these technologies. Also many studies have examined the historical change to the landscape and the effect of this on scenic quality.

The paper which sumarises studies of visual impacts and landscape change is 30 pages (7.1 MB). Click here


The Community Preferences Method describes the method used to gain the community's landscape quality preferences which can be analysed and used as the basis for mapping landscape quality for a region. This paper details the method covering photographing the landscape, preparing the on-line survey instrument, managing and analysing the data, and finally, mapping landscape quality for the study area. It also examines applications of the findings to policy, management and development assessment areas.

The paper which summarises the Community Preferences Method is 56 pages (8.7 MB). Click here

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