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8. Landscape Architects' Interpretations of People's Landscape Preferences

DescriptionThis study sought to find out the degree to which landscape architects could understand their clients' preferences, and the degree to which they agreed with them.
MethodologyLandscape architects were asked to rank a series of photographs in a way similar to the client group, based on the readings of the descriptions which the client group gave to the photographs.

Landscape architects could use the written information to come quite close to reproducing the client group's perceptions, even though the personal preferences of the landscape architects did not correspond to the client group's personal preferences.

Bohyoff notes from this study that:

  • simple, open-ended questioning of visitors to a park is a cost effective method to gauge the order and magnitude of landscape preferences.
  • planners cannot assume that their preferences will match those of the general public.
PublishedJournal of Environmental Management, 6: 255-262.
AuthorsBuhyoff, G.J., Wellman, J.D., Harvey, H. and Fraser, R.A.
PublisherAcademic Press Inc. (London) Ltd
PriceSubscription c. 285 p.a. (3)
Keywordsenvironmental management; landscape preferences; environmental aesthetics; visual perception.

This is part of a body of work by Buhyoff and others which Zube (1982) includes in his psychophysical paradigm. This paper is reviewed here because it typifies a range of studies concerned with landscape evaluation for planning purposes and is regularly cited in reviews of research.

Buhyoff's methodology is simple: it involves a series of tests, usually the ranking of slides or interviews, to establish and monitor landscape evaluations of the general public. The studies are directed to specific planning, design and management issues to which the outcomes of the research can be applied.

Other papers of interest include Buhyoff, Leuschner and Wellman (1979) where the aesthetic impacts of southern pine beetle (SPB) damage were studied. Subjects, all known to have different levels of knowledge of SPB were shown a variety of slides illustrating damaged and undamaged areas of forest. Using rank correlation methods, it was found that preference for forested landscape diminishes with increases in SPB damage. The effect was pronounced for knowledgeable subjects, while naive subjects may actually prefer landscapes with orange-brown stages of damage. However Buhyoff suggests that it was not clear from this research which landscape elements influenced preference (what people looked at), and how they interpreted what they saw (what did they think caused the damage). Seemingly straight-forward psychophysical research may raise more questions than it answers. Buhyoff also questioned how such research findings should be applied. Negative reaction to damage to forests by pests, for example, could be minimised by reducing publicity. Such action, however, could conflict with other management responsibilities to the public.


Buhyoff, G.J. Leuschner, W.A. and Wellman, J.D. (1979) Aesthetic impacts of southern pine beetle damage. Journal of Environmental Management, 8 (3): 261-7.

Zube, E.H., Sell, J.L. and Taylor, J.G. (1982). Landscape Perception: Research, Application and Theory. Landscape Planning, 9: 1-33.