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30. Environmental Aesthetics: Ideas, Politics and Planning

DescriptionThis makes claim to be a multidisciplinary, comprehensive, integrated survey of environmental aesthetics.
MethodologyThe author gives a brief history of aesthetics and taste, then discusses the psychology of human-environment relations, the influences of literary, artistic and legal activism on the environment, and concludes with an analysis of the roles of public policy and of planning.

Porteous considers that environmental aesthetics can be usefully understood through an interrelated matrix of four major approaches: Humanist, Experimentalist, Activist and Planning paradigms. This matrix forms the structure for discussion in the book. Porteous believes that it is necessary to break down the barriers which prevent the flow of ideas and information between the four major approaches to environmental aesthetics.

The environmental aesthetics which Porteous advocates is the 'aesthetics of the public environment' and has an ethical and moral dimension.

PublishedEnvironmental Aesthetics: ideas, politics and planning.
AuthorsPorteous, J. D.
PublisherLondon: Routledge
Price£47.50 (hardback); £15.99 (softback).
Keywordsenvironmental aesthetics, environmental psychology; environmental ethics; landscape; planning; environmental policy/politics.

This is a clear and concise review, structured in a similar way to an earlier review of landscape perception by Zube, Sell and Taylor (1982). It gives an up to date summary of multidisciplinary research and places landmark studies in context. However, whilst the Kaplan and Ulrich approaches, for example, are amply described other, more recent developments in environmental psychology receive scant attention e.g. Russell, Purcell, Seamon.

The author provides an interesting personal commentary and overview to this work, stating his moral and ethical views. He includes a report of his own study in 'transcendential experience' which is discussed in Brook (1998).

Porteous is particularly interested in the sensory variety and quality of the environment. He states that, because of the lack of research into environmental smell (Winter 1978, Corbin 1986, Le Guérer 1988) sound (other than noise) (Corbin 1994) and touch, this book is dominated by visual aesthetics (p41).

He also identifies problems caused by the dearth of work on childhood aesthetics ('childscape' in Porteous 1990), and insufficient work on gender and intergenerational differences in environmental aesthetics (p127).


Brook, I (1998), Goethean Science as a Way to Read the Landscape. Landscape Research 23 (1): 51-67

Corbin, A. (1986). Le Miasme et la Jonquille: L'Odorat et L'Imaginaire Social XVIIIe-XIXe Siècles. Paris: Flammarion.

Corbin, A. (1994). Les Cloches de la Terre. Paris: Albin Michel.

Le Guérer, A. (1988). Les Pouvoirs de l'Odeur. Paris; Edition du CNRS.

Porteous, J.D. (1990). Landscapes of the mind. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.