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9. Whose vision? Whose meanings? Whose values? Pluralism and Objectivity in Landscape Analysis

DescriptionCarlson states that landscapes are valued differently, have different meanings attributed to them, and are even perceived in different ways by different individuals. He considers the roles that the concepts of 'vision', 'meaning', and 'values', play in the descriptive, interpretative and evaluative judgements used in environmental research, analysis and design.
MethodologyThis study uses philosophical argument to examine the issues of pluralism and objectivity concerning vision, meanings, and values.
ResultsCarlson (p168) criticises the use of preference studies and recommends the need for landscape professionals to make the "descriptive, interpretative, and evaluative judgements about landscape".
PublishedP. Groth, ed. Vision Culture and Landscape: working papers from the Berkeley symposium on cultural landscape interpretation.
AuthorsCarlson, A.
PublisherDept Landscape Architecture, Univ. of California, Berkeley.
Pricenot available
Keywordsenvironmental aesthetics; environmental aesthetics/criticism; environmental preference studies.

Carlson is an environmental philosopher whose views can incite controversy, (Foster, 1991). He has written extensively on environmental aesthetics. In this study he provides a critique of the use of empirical research and preference studies to guide design and management. Bourassa (1991), following Carlson (1990), asserts the role of expert judgement and criticism in environmental aesthetics.

Carlson (1976) has also attacked the use of photographs and other visual simulations in experimental research. He states that the use of such stimuli overemphasises the formal qualities of environment and neglects the sensuous qualities such as colour, texture and smoothness.

For further discussion of Carlson's work see Bourassa (1991), Foster (1991) and Porteous (1996).


Bourassa, S.C. (1991) The Aesthetics of Landscape London: Belhaven Press

Carlson, A., (1976). Environmental aesthetics and the dilemma of aesthetic education. Journal of Aesthetic Education 10: 69-82.

Foster, C. A. (1991) Aesthetics and the Natural Environment, unpublished PhD. Thesis University of Edinburgh.

Porteous, J. D. (1996), Environmental Aesthetics London: Routledge.