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11. Focus on Landscape Aesthetics

DescriptionDearden considers the different approaches to landscape aesthetics. He comments on the eclectic nature of this field of study and attempts to cover divergent viewpoints as well as provide an overall perspective.
MethodologyLiterature review and critical analysis of general research theories from a geographer's perspective.
ResultsConsiders that there is a considerable diversity of philosophy and approach in the papers he reviews yet he notes that they are all concerned with understanding landscape and its visual quality. He concludes that landscape quality is not a simple concept and cannot be fully appreciated through the application of one universal approach or technique. He argues that in some cases where it is known that there is likely to be a high consensus of landscape evaluation, external influences predominate over internal. Thus measuring external landscape influences makes sense. In other cases, where it is demonstrated that there is little consensus in evaluation, then it is clear that internal factors are predominating and that these are the factors which should be investigated.
PublishedThe Canadian Geographer 29 (3): 263-73
AuthorsDearden, P.
PublisherCanadian Association of Geographers
Pricesubscription Can. $45
Keywordslandscape aesthetics, visual quality of landscape, environmental aesthetics.

Useful general review summarising the debate which Dearden considers to have developed between those who view landscape beauty as being in the eye of the beholder, (a social scientists' approach) and those who believe that beauty is inherent in objects, (a physical scientist approach). Dearden presents some preliminary ideas to link philosophy, theory, and method. He rejects the 'objectivist' and 'subjectivist' philosophical poles on the nature of beauty and adopts a 'relational' one. In his opinion, a simple theoretical framework, focused on the degree of societal consensus on landscape aesthetics, could give guidance in selecting the method of approach.

He refers to Dearden (1984) and Zube, Pit, and Anderson, (1974) as examples of research which show that varying degrees of consensus on landscape quality do exist.

Dearden (1984) investigated the influence on landscape preference of professional training, environmental awareness, familiarity according to landscape type and various socio-economic factors. Dearden concluded that familiarity was a significant factor in determining landscape preference. He cites Lyons, (1983) in support of this view.


Dearden, P. (1984) Factors influencing landscape preferences: an empirical investigation Landscape Planning 11 (4):293-306.

Dearden, P. (1989) "Societal Landscape Preferences: a pyramid of influences," in P Dearden and B. Saddler, eds., Landscape evaluation: approaches and applications,
Western Geographical Series, Vol. 25
, Dept of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.

Lyons, E. (1983) Demographic Correlates of Landscape Preference, Environment and Behavior 15 (4):487-511.

Pomeroy, J.W., Green, M.B. and Fitzgibbon, J.E. (1983) Evaluation of Urban Riverscape Aesthetics in the Canadian Prairies. Journal of Environmental Management. 17: 263-276.

Zube, E.H., Pit, D.G. and Anderson, T.W., (1974) Perception and Measurement of Scenic Resources in the Southern Connecticut River Valley. Institute for Management and His. Environment No R-74-1, Amherst, Mass., 191pp.