Scenes of the Flinders Ranges, Australia
Scenic Solutions is an Australian-based consultancy which offers services in measuring and mapping landscape quality, in assessing the visual impact of proposed developments and activities, and in formulating policies to protect, manage and enhance landscape quality.
Scenic Solutions is directed by Dr Andrew Lothian who gained his PhD through measuring and mapping the landscape quality of South Australia. He has since applied the methodology in measuring and mapping the scenic quality of many areas of the State and overseas. He has also assessed the visual impact of developments and advised on planning policies relating to the protection of landscape quality.
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare
From: Advance Australia Fair, Australia’s National Anthem
Whatsoever things are lovely, think on these things Philippians 4:8
Landscapes delight and attract people. They identify where we are and provide a sense of place. While overseas we often long for our own landscapes. Landscapes attract and stimulate tourists and visitors. poets, writers, painters and photographers. Landscapes generate $ through tourism and enhanced property values.
Combining both its physical origins and the cultural overlay of human presence, often created over millennia, landscapes reflect the living synthesis of people and place vital to local and national identity. The characteristics and quality of a nation’s landscapes help to define its self image, its sense of place that differentiates it from other countries. Landscapes provide the dynamic backdrop to people’s lives. Research has found that natural landscapes provide tangible health benefits for people who view them. Care for landscapes can motivate people to broader environmental protection.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases: it will never pass into nothingness.
What is landscape quality?
- It is a subjective quality but it can be objectively measured
- It is a public good, not privately owned
- It is not diminished by use
- It can be changed but is never destroyed
- It is a qualitative resource and is therefore requires human perception for its measurement
- It exists whether or not the area is accessible for viewing
- It is an environmental resource of community value
Though a subjective quality in that it involves human likes and dislikes, scenic beauty can be measured objectively and rigorously. The results can be used to predict the likely scenic quality rating of a given scene. The results are replicable by anyone applying the same methodology.
The purpose of this website is to inform and stimulate interest in the assessment of landscape quality. The terms landscape quality and scenic quality are used here interchangeably as referring essentially to the same thing: the aesthetic qualitative value of the physical landscape as perceived by people.
Scenic beauty has been a powerful force shaping our history, culture, philosophical and spiritual traditions and policies governing natural resources and public lands.
How is landscape quality measured?
Many years ago in Australia, researchers tried to measure scenic quality by measuring all the features of the landscape that could be measured – land forms, vegetation, water bodies, land uses etc. They believed that from this information, the scenic quality would be derived. But it never did.
The reason scenic quality cannot be derived by measuring the landscape is that these activities involve the cognitive paradigm – human reasoning and analysis. However scenic quality is an affective quality, human likes and dislikes, our preferences.
Our liking of chocolate does not depend on knowing anything about how the chocolate is made, where it came from, its color and shape. Rather we taste it and know immediately whether or not we like it.
Similarly our liking of music does not depend on an analysis of the use of instruments, scoring for the orchestra, or a detailed analysis of the score. Rather our music appreciation is immediate and without analysis.
So it is with scenic quality. Our liking of a scene is immediate and without analysis. We know what we like.
Dictionaries reinforce this distinction between the cognitive and the affective in their definition of aesthetics as “things perceptible by the senses (i.e. affective) as opposed to things thinkable or immaterial (i.e. cognitive)”(Shorter Oxford, 1973).
Measuring landscape quality thus requires the measurement of landscape preferences – how much we like the landscape. Rating scales (e.g. 1 – 10, low – high) provide an effective means of gauging preferences.
Any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads. Donald W. Meinig, 1976
Method for measuring and mapping scenic quality
The method has been developed and refined over a succession of studies and is robust, reliable and effective.
The method involves photographing the region and classifying it into landscape units on the basis of which the region is sampled by photographs.
An Internet survey instrument is prepared and placed on a website and potential participants invited to participate. At the same time landscape factors which are characteristics of the landscape likely to contribute to its scenic quality are scored independently by a small group.
Following completion of the Internet survey, the results are analyzed in depth, including the development of predictive models using linear multiple regression analysis, to gain a full understanding of the landscape quality present in the region and its distribution.
Mapping of its landscape quality is then undertaken, working closely with GIS specialists.
Click here for more details about the method of landscape quality assessment
Towards a science of scenery
In laying the foundation for the further development of studies of scenic quality, a scientific approach is essential – what might be termed the science of scenery. The science of scenery aims to place the measurement and prediction of scenic quality on a sound scientific foundation, providing understanding of what generates scenic quality, contributing to an explanatory theory of human landscape preferences, and allowing for the prediction of scenic quality for a given set of landscape characteristics.
Standardizing the method is the key to achieving comparability of studies, replication of results and comprehensiveness of coverage which are essential to progress the science of measuring scenic quality.
For an extensive discussion of the concept and implementation of a standard method, click on the following links:
The science of scenery
Theory of landscape quality
Topologies of landscape quality research
Methods of landscape quality research
Community Preferences Method for measuring and mapping landscape quality
Comprehensive list of references to landscape quality
Ask anyone what is meant by ‘beauty’ and they will begin to describe a landscape.
Sir Kenneth Clark, 1949