Forestry Commission logo

5. The Aesthetics of Landscape

DescriptionSets out to provide a comprehensive theoretical framework for research in landscape aesthetics.
MethodologyCritical review of the history of ideas about landscape and aesthetic experience. Sets out conceptual framework combining 'biological, cultural and personal aspects' of aesthetic experience, reviews current theory and illustrates the application of theory to problems of landscape evaluation.
ResultsConcludes that there is a need to be explicit in distinguishing between, biological laws, cultural rules and personal strategies. Promotes the postmodern approach of 'critical regionalism' as logical progression of his arguments. 'Critical regionalism' he considers, recognises the importance of context, appreciates the role of local culture, social institutions, climate etc. and uses this to 'enhance the identity of places', (discussed in Ch.8.)
PublishedThe Aesthetics of Landscape
AuthorsBourassa, S.C.
PublisherBelhaven Press, London
Keywordslandscape aesthetics, landscape evaluation, aesthetics.

Concludes that research in the field of landscape aesthetics has been extensive but fragmentary and has lacked any coherent foundation in aesthetic theory. Sets out the positions of both the biological and cultural explanations before analysing the nature of aesthetic experience at sensory, formal and symbolic levels. Recommends a tripartite framework of biological, cultural and personal modes of aesthetic experience as an organising strategy. Includes critiques of several quantitative evaluation methods. Suggests that quantitative techniques based on objective formal quantities must be viewed with scepticism (p122) but offers landscape criticism as a model for the evaluation of landscape. He uses Kant to support his view that the aesthetic model is the symbol of the moral or practical and that content and meaning must be considered simultaneously with form and other objective qualities.

Reviews Scenic Estimation Model : acknowledges that the model emphasised the interactive nature of aesthetic experience but suggests that cultural values were not adequately addressed, (p127). Refers to Carlson (1990) to advocate the role of the expert in landscape evaluation.


Carlson, A. (1990) "Whose Vision? Whose Meanings? Whose Values? Pluralism and Objectivity in Landscape Analysis" in P. Groth, ed. Vision Culture and Landscape: working papers from the Berkeley symposium on cultural landscape interpretation. Dept Landscape Architecture, Univ. of California, Berkeley.

Daniel T.C. and Boster, R.S. (1976) Measuring Landscape aesthetics: The Scenic Beauty Estimation Method. USDA, Forest Service Research paper, RM-167. Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, Co

Daniel, T.C. and Schroeder, H. (1979) "The Scenic Beauty Estimation Model: predicting perceived beauty of Forest Landscapes," in Proceedings of Our National Landscapes: a conference on applied techniques for analysis and management of the visual resource, USDA, Forest Service General Technical Report PSW-35, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, Berkley, Ca.