6 Review of Overseas Experience


6.1.1   The objective of the review of overseas experience is to identify, at a general level, the range of approaches to landscape and townscape assessment which have been developed world-wide, principally over the last 50 years. The identification of these key approaches will be used for two purposes:

6.1.2    The specific objectives of the overseas review are therefore:

6.1.3    The review covers both academic study and professional practice. As in most fields of endeavour, major methodological advances have been made by academic studies and so these are a key component of the review, particularly in the United States. However, professional studies have also made important contributions to the definition and advancement of methodologies and so these key studies are also included.

6.1.4    Because the orientation of methodologies throughout the world has developed differently, there is often variation in use of terminology. Here, the term 'landscape assessment' is used to define generally the process of description, classification, analysis and evaluation, although the orientation of approaches and studies across the world may vary somewhat. However, the term 'landscape assessment' is used to cover any or all of these facets of the discipline.

6.1.5    As well as covering the field of landscape assessment and evaluation, the review covers an analysis of the ways in which the landscape of urban areas has been described, analysed and mapped. This landscape in urban areas is hereafter referred to as 'townscape'. The area of townscape analysis is one that is traditionally separated from the field of landscape architecture and dealt with in the field of urban design. Therefore, seminal work in this field is included in this section of the report with a view ultimately, to finding a way in which methodologies in this field can be combined into a unified approach to both landscape and townscape assessment.

6.1.6   The review is presented under the following headings:




6.2.1    The review of overseas approaches to landscape assessment covers the major regions of the world in which there has been significant experience of landscape assessment and planning. Because certain regions of the world are more advanced in their development and application of landscape and townscape assessment, this experience is not distributed evenly. The review therefore concentrates on those regions where landscape and townscape is most developed and applied. These regions represent the most substantial source of useful information on the subject from which the current Study can draw. Regions where there has been no development or applications of methodologies of world significance (or which does not reach the international literature on the subject) such as Africa or South America, are not included. The world regions covered by the review are therefore:

  • United States;
  • United Kingdom and Ireland;
  • Continental Europe;
  • Asia and Australasia;

           Landscape Assessment in the United States

6.2.2    The rapid expansion of American cities in the early part of the 20th Century, together with the high values which Americans ascribe to landscape, resulted in a concern for landscape and landscape planning which developed there earlier than elsewhere in the world. Consequently, in certain regards, the field of landscape assessment and landscape planning is better developed in the US than anywhere else in the world.

6.2.3    The field of landscape assessment and planning was led in the US by professionals in the natural sciences who moved into the field of regional planning (the forester, Benton MacKaye, ecologist, Eugene Odum and biologist, Julius Fabos). Consequently, the direction of landscape assessment and planning in the US has had a strong resource-based influence, as opposed to the more character-based approach in the UK. Under this approach, more emphasis is placed on the values of individual landscape components (of which scenic quality is merely one), than on the aggregate effect or impression of landscape (i.e. its character).

6.2.4    Benton Mackaye as early as 1928 had identified an ecological approach to landscape description and evaluation in his work around Boston and identified a series of landscape types which should be protected from development. The field was advanced in the 1950's when regional landscape planning pioneer Phil Lewis was already employing overlay techniques (for which Ian McHarg would become more notable - see below) in his study for the Embarrass River Watershed, Wabash River Valley and his study for the states of Illinois and Wisconsin. In essence, Lewis' overlay technique used simple, coarse data on different natural resources to identify areas with potential for conservation or for development.

6.2.5    However, the field of landscape assessment and planning was defined in the latter part of the century by a practitioner Ian McHarg, and an academic, Julius Fabos.

6.2.6    McHarg's early commissions in the 1960s with his firm WMRT included two seminal studies for the Maryland Plan for the Valleys and for Baltimore Harbour and The Woodlands, Texas. During these early studies, McHarg developed his landscape resource inventory and overlay techniques and drew these experiences together in his seminal work, Design with Nature (McHarg, 1969)..

6.2.7    McHarg's principal method, crudely stated, is to identify the values of various natural resources which comprise 'the landscape' individually (geology, vegetation, topography, scenic value, etc). An inventory of natural resources is compiled and so such techniques have become known as 'inventory techniques'. These values are mapped for the area in question, onto transparent overlay plans in tones of grey, grey areas indicating areas of high value. Then, for any required land use, one selects the resource map overlays that are a consideration in determining the location of that land use and overlays them together. Where areas of high natural resource coincide, such areas will appear as dark grey on the composite plan, whereas where such values are absent, they will appear as clear or lighter grey. The presence or absence of certain values will thereby determine the suitability of any given location for the proposed use.

6.2.8    Shortly after McHarg's seminal work, Julius Fabos in 1971 established the METLAND group as a research group to develop and test landscape planning models for public agencies. Fabos' particular interest was and remains the ways in which computers can be used to facilitate natural resource mapping, description and evaluation. The basis of landscape assessment in the natural sciences and an emphasis on the use of rational scientific method in landscape assessment meant that there was a strong emphasis throughout the latter part of the 20th Century on quantification of landscape resources. It was therefore inevitable that as computers become more widely used in the US in the natural and applied sciences, that their use should spread to the field of landscape assessment.

6.2.9    Computer-based models for resource management were in use in the United States as early as the nineteen sixties, when Harvard university developed its grid-based SYMAP system of land resource data storage and analysis. This was refined in the 1970s in the COMPLUP model which enabled more discrete geographical units to be mapped. Since that time, the Metropolitan Landscape Planning Model (METLAND) has been at the forefront of the application of GIS to landscape resources. Recent examples of the METLAND application of GIS to landscape assessment and planning includes The Amhurst Greenway Strategy and the Blackstone Heritage Greenway Project.

6.2.10  METLAND is a comprehensive approach to regional land use planning which has been developed by an interdisciplinary research team at the University of Massachusetts over the past fourteen years. It is designed to show the potential cause effect relationships of alternative land uses on various landscape, ecological and public service resources of prime concern in landscape planning.

6.2.11  The METLAND model was developed in the early 1970s, in particular, during a series of resource studies carried out for the Boston Metropolitan Region. An inventory is made of landscape resources. 25 variables were mapped but the key parameters are as follows:

  • water resources;
  • land productivity;
  • earth resources (solid and drift geology); and
  • visual-cultural values.

6.2.12  Resources are valued according to 3 criteria: availability, attributes and use. Visual Quality is measured using two key parameters: visual complexity and visual compatibility, making the twin assumptions (based on empirical testing) that human beings value most highly diverse visual environments with a high number of compatible elements.

6.2.13  The influence of the early practitioners of landscape planning and assessment has been profound, and practice of landscape assessment the United States still appears to follow a predominantly resource-based model, in which visual characteristics are merely one component.

6.2.14  A number of studies in the recent past have been identified by the American Society of Landscape Architects as defining the state-of-the-art in landscape assessment and planning. The National Parks Salem Project: Study of Alternatives, Mass. (1990) employed a resource inventory and analysis to enhance historical cultural landscape values. The Loess Hills Scenic By-way Project (1993) used overlay mapping techniques, computer visualisation techniques and public participation surveys to identify areas of high scenic value.

6.2.15  The Masterplan for Flathead County Montana (1995) represents a state-of-the art assessment which includes a comprehensive GIS database of resources, a county-wide visual resource assessment system and community participation exercise. The products of the Study included an agricultural preservation plan, ecological management plan and a design framework for neighbourhood planning.

6.2.16  Other recent assessment projects have employed GIS as a fundamental tool during the assessment process. These include assessments for Kissimmee River Restoration Plan in Florida and the Greater Pikes Peak Multi-use Plan, Colorado.

6.2.17  A key characteristic of practice in the United States is that landscape assessment is very objective orientated, i.e. that assessment are rarely carried out for their own sake, but are linked to specific areas of concern or policy objectives (e.g. conservation of agricultural landscape values, in Delta County, Colorado; or ecological forest management (Northwest Forest Plan, Oregon).


6.2.18  Landscape assessment and planning in the United States is in historical terms, the best developed system in the world. From the brief overview of practice above, the following key characteristics emerge:

  • A strong linkage with the natural sciences and scientific method;
  • A corresponding emphasis on quantification of landscape resources and values;
  • A highly developed use of GIS and computer based parametric analysis;
  • A tendency to view landscape values as a combination of the values of a number of individual resource values;
  • A corresponding resource-based or inventory approach to assessment;
  • A strong linkage between the landscape planning process and policy objectives - to this extent assessments are often action-orientated towards specific goals.

           Landscape Assessment in the United Kingdom And Ireland

6.2.19  Each of the constituent parts of the UK and Ireland (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland) has developed its own individual landscape assessment system. Although the fundamental principles of the assessment systems are shared, there are also many differences and contrasts, which usefully serve to illustrate what works well and what does not. All systems are based on landscape character rather than landscape quality or value, reflecting moves away from an approach based solely on special, designated landscapes towards one that recognises the importance of the wider landscape.


6.2.20  Comprehensive systems of landscape assessment in the UK and Ireland, developed first in England. The earliest notable advocates of landscape planning in England were Sylvia Crowe (1967) and Brian Hackett (1971). Hackett's approach adopted the concept' of 'natural areas' borrowed from geography and ecology as the cornerstone for the classification and ecological planning of landscape. During the 1960s and 1970 there was a prolific growth in the numbers and complexity of different methods of landscape assessment. These adapted statistical and quantifiable techniques developed in the US to produce models that were very complex and ultimately open to question. A Study for the Countryside Commission by the University of Manchester in the early 1970s concluded that such statistical techniques were too narrow in their selection of quantifiable criteria, and urged a broader-based approach.

6.2.21  A crucial point in the development of landscape assessment methodologies arrived in 1985 at the North Pennines AONB public inquiry. After a lengthy quasi-legal process, the Secretary of State concluded that landscape assessment could not be a purely objective science, but "involves a subjective assessment and that within the consensus of informed opinion allied with the trained eye and common sense, the matter is one of aesthetic taste". This decision set the trend for the methodologies that were to be in use in the UK during the 1980's and early 1990's which aimed to combine the objective and subjective approaches to assessment within the framework of informed professional opinion, based on aesthetic taste operating within the context of informed opinion, the trained eye and common sense.

6.2.22  In guidance issued in 1991, 1993 and 2000 the English Countryside Commission (now the Countryside Agency) firmly established and consolidated its approach to assessment. This operated largely around the mechanism of 'landscape character' as a vehicle used to define coherent landscape units as well as values. It also emphasised a comprehensive approach to landscape assessment and encouraged a complete landscape assessment coverage of England.

6.2.23  The English Countryside Agency approach encourages the systematic, structured analysis of landscape characteristics, based on desk study and field survey of geology, landform, land-cover, habitats, historical and built environment features. At national level, the Agency has identified 159 Regional Character Areas (within the Character of England Map and Descriptions) and 75 generic landscape types (within the Draft National Landscape Typology). These large-scale units - partly based on GIS analysis - are intended primarily as a framework for national and regional policy-making, monitoring countryside change and other strategic applications. This approach is complemented by the Agency's work on environmental capital or (more recently) quality of life capital, which seeks to identify and evaluate the different benefits or functions of different landscape characteristics and features.

6.2.24  More detailed sub-regional and local assessments are undertaken mainly by planning authorities and are of variable quality and consistency as there is no overall co-ordination or quality assurance of these assessments. However, the best assessments (such as the notable Hampshire Landscape Assessment and Strategy (1993-ongoing) now make active use of GIS for both analysis and recording, involve stakeholders in making judgements about landscape change and feed effectively into development plan policy, development control, land management and monitoring. There has been a growing emphasis on integrated assessment of landscape, biodiversity and historical character and also on integration of rural and urban characterisations.

6.2.25  Notable in the UK is the exclusion of urban areas from consideration as part of landscape assessment. A few notable studies have however attempted to develop an approach which can deal both with rural and suburban/urban landscape. These include the Gosport and Fareham Landscape Assessments, UK (c1998) and the Tidal Thames Landscape Assessment and Design Guidelines (1996) which covers the landscape of the Thames through central London.


6.2.26  The system in Scotland is very similar to that in England and in fact the Countryside Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage will shortly be publishing joint landscape character assessment guidance. The principal difference from England is that Scottish Natural Heritage has made an effort to co-ordinate landscape assessments by different local authorities, and has developed a GIS that contains maps and associated data from all the assessments. It has attempted to aggregate the landscape units (with some difficulty) to produce larger scale landscape classifications for strategic purposes. The landscape classification in turn has fed into a broad, strategic Natural Heritage Zonation (based on landscape, biodiversity, earth science etc) that is used for management purposes.


6.2.27  In Wales, a different type of assessment system has been developed by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). The LANDMAP Project is undertaken at county level and is based on creating a pool of landscape information stored in a GIS. The assumption is that biodiversity, geomorphology, visual character, culture and history can be examined in turn and then amalgamated into landscape character areas. There is a strong emphasis on process as well as product, and the assessment involves a wide range of stakeholders in defining the character areas and making recommendations for their future planning and management. CCW advises, co-ordinates and undertakes QA of the LANDMAP assessments, but the county councils retain ownership. More recently, CCW has been involved in a European funded project (undertaken jointly with Irish counterparts) on seascape assessment. The main purpose of this work is to help with EIA of offshore development.

6.2.28  Recently, an interest in distinguishing 'seascape' from 'landscape' has developed and this has been pioneered by the Maritime Ireland/Wales INTERREG Project CCW and University College Dublin. Seascape (i.e. coastal landscape) is perceived as raising slightly different issues to inland landscapes and therefore requiring slightly different methodologies. The CCW has released a 'Guide to Best Practice in Seascape Assessment' and has encouraged a number of seascape assessments in Wales.

 Northern Ireland

6.2.29  In Northern Ireland, the Environment and Heritage Service and Planning Service have funded a comprehensive landscape character assessment for the whole region, with separate assessment reports for each of the 26 local government districts. The award-winning Northern Ireland Landscape Character Assessment 2000 was carried-out by a single consultant, thereby achieving a high degree of internal consistency; and yet the information is also detailed enough for use at local level. This assessment did not involve detailed GIS-based analysis, but did include useful analysis of the character and setting of each of the region's principal settlements. At the district level the assessment has been an important contributor to the Area Plan process; at regional level it has informed the Regional Planning Strategy Framework. It is also widely used in EIA, development control, planning appeals and countryside management.

 The Republic of Ireland

6.2.30  The Republic of Ireland is a relative newcomer to landscape assessment. Its Planning and Development Act 2000 placed a requirement on planning authorities to prepare a landscape assessment as a precursor to any new development plan. The Department of the Environment and Local Government has issued a consultation draft of guidelines for planning authorities on landscape and landscape assessment, and the first assessments are now underway in Counties Leitrim and Galway. The Heritage Council, the government's advisers on heritage policy, have also commissioned a GIS-based pilot landscape assessment in County Clare. The Heritage Council is keen to see a National Landscape Classification established to provide the framework for more detailed county level assessments and to ensure that landscape assessment data can be used at national level for strategic planning, targeting of agri-environment funds and monitoring countryside change. However, the establishment of such a system is still under discussion.

6.2.31  As noted above, Ireland has been involved with Wales in the development of 'seascape' assessment under the INTERREG Project.


6.2.32  Landscape assessment in the United Kingdom and Ireland is now amongst the best-developed in the world. Key characteristics of approaches in the region are:

  • A comprehensive and integrated approach to assessment;
  • The encouragement of landscape assessment at a national level;
  • The adoption of character as an important basis for assessment;
  • A high degree of reliance on professionals to mediate between objectivity and subjectivity;
  • Tentative steps towards developing methodologies which integrate rural and urban landscape assessment;
  • The development of a field of 'seascape assessment';
  • Recent interest and development of techniques in resource mapping of GIS and an environmental capital approach to assessment.

 Landscape Assessment in Continental Europe

6.2.33  Traditionally, European countries have used a very wide range of different approaches and tools for land and landscape planning, reflecting the different ideas behind the landscape policies of these countries. In some countries, such as Germany, a landscape ecology approach has been adopted, with an emphasis on classification and management of different habitats types. In other countries, such as Italy, there is greater emphasis on the cultural and historical aspects of landscape. A third group of countries led by the UK tends to focus on visual and perceptual character and the unique sense of place that landscapes afford.

6.2.34  However, there are a number of common themes across Europe. Landscapes are commonly described and managed in similar ways. Landscape areas are identified and mapped by analysing patterns of landscape characteristics - for example landform, land-cover, spatial patterns, boundaries, enclosure and naturalness. Landscape elements such as geological formations, linear and point features, archaeological sites and settlements are recorded and their distribution analysed. Landscape benefits (social, environmental, economic) or functions may also be examined - these may include scenic views, tranquillity, access, interpretation, recreation, tourism and regional products.

6.2.35  There is also a growing emphasis on study of the whole of the land (urban and rural, exceptional and ordinary) as opposed to simply safeguarding the 'best' landscapes. This approach has now been formally endorsed by the Council of Europe in the European Landscape Convention, adopted in October 2000. The Convention seeks to harmonise approaches to landscape protection, management and planning in recognition of the contribution that landscapes make to quality of life and economic activity. It urges member states to recognise landscapes in law, establish landscape policies, establish procedures for public participation in the formulation of landscape policies, and integrate landscape into regional and town planning and environmental, agricultural, social and economic policies. Signatories to the convention undertake to identify landscapes, analyse landscape characteristics and forces for change, assess landscapes taking into account the particular values attached to them, and define landscape quality objectives in consultation with the public. So far exchange of experience on landscape assessment in Europe has been fairly limited. However, it is evident that approaches are more advanced in some countries than in others.


6.2.36  In Germany a pilot project is assessing land use intensity, structural diversity and the rarity of landscape features on a sample basis with a view to monitoring landscape change. There is a strong ecological emphasis and more limited attention is generally given to cultural and perceptual landscapes.


6.2.37  In the Netherlands, the approach to landscape assessment and planning was defined by the 1977 Landscape Policy Document ('Visie Landscapsbouw') which adopted an integrationalist approach to landscape looking at the operation of its functional aspects (agriculture, forestry, etc), recreation potential and its conservation aspects. It was assumed that this approach would thereby guarantee aesthetic qualities. This document was reviewed in the Landscape Policy Document 1992 ('Nota Landschap'). This document prescribed an approach to landscape assessment and planning which focused more on aesthetic qualities, ecological qualities and economic-functional qualities. The document advocates a national and comprehensive approach to landscape assessment and identified 8 National Landscape Patterns, landscape types which are typical of Dutch Countryside and which define its identity. Policy was orientated towards the conservation and restoration of these specific types. The policy is currently being actioned by national and regional agencies, although this is apparently hampered by administrative responsibility and land ownership. The Dutch National Forest Service in 1997 carried out a study to refine these types in 26 landscape types. Using an inventory-type approach to classification, the study has served to identify the changing temporal qualities of landscape and the importance of defining landscape planning objectives prior to trying to define landscape typologies (i.e. what values is the landscape plan principally trying to enhance or protect).


6.2.38  In France, assessment is undertaken at three levels, the first based on analysis of land cover data (from the CORINE land cover project), the second on land use patterns and diversity, and the third on landscape quality and function (such as scenic and tourism importance). The system provides excellent baseline landscape data, but is perhaps less successful in promoting understanding and interpretation of landscape character.


6.2.39  In Italy, a landscape unit map has been prepared based on geology, geomorphology and land use data, and this is now being developed to provide a framework for landscape planning and management at local level. At that level more detailed landscape assessment work is also being undertaken. For example in Liguria, in southern Italy, the aim is to assess and manage the tourism value of the area's wild landscapes. There is a particular focus here on the transhumance landscapes that are of considerable cultural as well as nature conservation interest.


6.2.40  In Norway, integrated assessment of landscape character is undertaken. A national landscape characterisation is being developed using data on the spatial structure of land cover types, biodiversity, cultural landscape features, accessibility and visual diversity. A similar approach has also been developed to that in the UK, with special attention given to the visual and cultural identity of different landscapes.


6.2.41  The field of landscape assessment and planning in Continental Europe is still undergoing development and its varied approach reflects a number of fundamental cultural and regional differences in views of landscape and landscape values. Particular characteristics of the field in this region are:

  • A predominantly resource-based approach, rather than one based on character;
  • A wide variety of approaches which are dictated by a the wide variety of objectives and concerns which define national identities;
  • An emphasis on specific values, which tend to reflect the absence of a well-developed profession of landscape architecture in certain countries (i.e. many countries emphasise the functional-productive elements of landscape, or the ecological-conservation values, etc, such approaches reflecting the importance of town planners or naturalists in the landscape planning process);
  • In certain cases (esp. Germany and Netherlands), a high level of integration with the statutory planning process.

Landscape Assessment in Asia And Australasia

6.2.42  Broad scale landscape classification has only received significant attention in Asia and Australasia since the 1970s and parallels the emergence of landscape architecture and planning as discrete disciplines in Australia and New Zealand especially. .

6.2.43  Early efforts at assessment in both countries focused upon project or development specific analysis and evaluation, involving landscape character classification. Much of the focus in relation to landscape evaluation was expert based and simply involved McHarg-type overlays of different value systems: recreational, environmental and perceptual values. This was matched by Visual Absorption Capability analysis derived from contemporary work in the USA by the likes of R Burton Litton.

6.2.44  In Malaysia, for example, much of this early work focused upon determining the 'carrying capacity' of landscapes in relation to tin mines.

6.2.45  In Australasia, such work focused upon large scale public projects and the sensitivities of public landscapes to change. Consequently, a third component of landscape - its visual prominence and the relative size and sensitivity of the catchments potentially affected by development at different sites - was also incorporated in that early work (as indeed it still is for assessments focusing upon project impacts). Such assessments included evaluation of the Clyde River system in New Zealand as part of hydro-electric dam siting investigations and in Australia focused upon both road and mine location options.

6.2.46  By the 1980s early attempts were emerging at more strategic analysis as a basis for planning at shire and city levels in Australia and at borough, county and regional levels in New Zealand. This was a period of considerable experimentation, primarily driven by individual landscape practitioners attempting to transplant overseas assessment concepts to the local situation. With the main focus now upon establishing hierarchies of comparative landscape sensitivity, a raft of approaches emerged, based around:

  • Expert interpretations of social values: again (aesthetic) perceptual, recreational, environmental / ecological & cultural (with added Maori and to a lesser degree Aboriginal dimensions);
  • Expert interpretations of ecological and social values: attempting to link landscape classification on the basis of ecological domains with social values (above);
  • Expert analysis based on psychophysical research: largely driven by S and R Kaplans' research into the two dimensional 'visual array' and 'three dimension space' - leading to analysis and evaluation of landscape values on the basis of key criteria addressing 'complexity', 'coherence', 'legibility' and 'mystery';
  • Public preference testing: based on research by the likes of Penning-Rowsell in the UK with simplistic Q Sort type analysis of public responses to different landscapes; and
  • Public preference testing & regression analysis (following in the tracks of the early METLAND studies): detailed analysis of human responses to different landscapes to develop associative links between landscape preference and key elements / factors that dictate preference and mapping of areas that display different combinations of such 'attributes'.

6.2.47  These methods have remained in a state of 'competition' since that period, although throughout much of the 1990s, systems based around criteria much the same as, or similar to those, developed by the Kaplans gained considerable credence and were employed (if only because they have proved cost effective).

6.2.48  At the same time, public preference testing and regression analysis - in the guise of Scenic Beauty Estimation (SBE) and B. Orland's research has gained support because of its statistical validity. Such work has been employed in both Australia and NZ to test reactions to different forestry scenarios and has been greatly assisted by the ability to generate artificial environments in computers and test preference reactions by having people choose paths through the landscape on the basis of their reactions to the screen landscape. Yet, this approach still suffers from the limited range of landscape types that it can handle and a conflict between the need for extreme control over testing conditions and the desire for high numbers of participant to obtain a valid sample (for regression analysis).

6.2.49  For this reason, the more recent focus (throughout the mid to late '90s) in public preference assessment has been upon Q Sort testing which is less predictive, but which accommodates economical 'samples' and a far greater diversity of landscape types. However, even this approach is still not universally supported in Australasia because of the perceived higher costs of such approaches and the adherence to expert based methods by many professionals.

6.2.50  In particular, three areas of concern still remain:

  • There is no agreement at this time about valid criteria for expert based assessment (the Kaplans have dropped somewhat from universal acclaim and favour) - without any obvious 'heir apparent' in terms of new verifiable criteria that can be applied to all parts of the World and to all cultures. This argument is even stronger where 'native - cultural' values are important, as distinct from an internationalised or westernised view of the landscape and environment. The sort of criteria developed by the Kaplans are too coarse to accommodate local dialectic meanings and values.
  • Should landscape ecology and perceptual landscape values be intertwined? Natural heritage context and values may be critical to establishing the true identity and 'sense of place' of different landscapes and this may actually be founded as much on a physical plane as on perceptual values. In particular, there is a strongly held view in some quarters that landscape classification aimed at identifying unique, or at least locally significant, ecological values - as the basis for longer term landscape conservation and rehabilitation - should be an integral part of assessing landscape values, and may ultimately be more important than simply determining what people like and dislike at this moment in time and space.
  • There is very real uncertainty about the degree of public input that should occur and at what stage. While SBE type models might well utilise public input right at the outset of research - as the basis for both definition and classification of different landscapes - Q Sort types methods generally involve the public after landscape units have been identified and may even be used to refine comparative evaluations after rudimentary assessment by experts. There is also the issue of whether or not to utilise experiential evaluation - responding to statements and expressions about landscape values that are derived in a quite informal / unstructured manner (often through recording of personal narratives).

6.2.51  The role of Visual Absorption Capability (VAC) as an input to overall landscape sensitivity is also uncertain. In New Zealand the 1991 Resource Management Act, with its focus upon 'outstanding landscapes' and 'amenity values', has increasingly driven assessment away from this area. However, it is still applicable to larger scale project-based assessments and is an integral part of most strategic studies in Australia. At the same time, Burton Litton's initial focus upon such criteria as slope, vegetation cover, site recoverability potential, etc has been refined. Whereas in the past such values tended to be addressed in a very quantitative fashion, it is now apparent that simple numeric calculation of different VAC attributes often fails to capture the subtleties of landscape expression and interplay in the field. This is particularly so, where existing land uses - in their multitudinous guises - have to be assessed.

6.2.52  GIS also has an increasing role to play in assessment; however, it has yet to be effectively employed as an evaluation tool - as opposed to a simple storage mechanism.

6.2.53  There has been relatively little attention paid towards urban landscape assessment and there remains considerable uncertainty over how to integrate assessment of rural/natural environments with quite different urban environments. To date, early attempts at urban assessment have been discrete, involving cultural landscape parameters that bear little relation to those employed (in expert studies) of rural / natural landscapes.

6.2.54  In Japan, landscape assessment is generally carried out as part of a regional assessment of natural resources and is strongly influenced by the McHarg approach developed in the USA. Typical examples of this are the Tokyo Bay Area Study and the Chiba City Study, which both respond to new emphases on sustainability in Japan. Both are termed 'ecological planning studies'. Resources are recorded in the McHarg inventory fashion within a GIS system. Landscape or scenic values constitute only one criterion within the wider resource framework. Natural resources are measured against established criteria (safety, health, productivity and amenity, etc) to establish a number of options for future sustainable development. The approach is very redolent of approaches in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, whereby landscape is seen less as an aggregate aesthetic experience, but more as a composite set of resources.


6.2.55  Consequently, at the turn of the 21st Century there is a plethora of approaches in use in the field of landscape assessment in the Asia and Australasia region. There is however, no clear agreement about the appropriateness and rigour of those tools. If anything, it looks as though there is a trend towards increased specialisation, with:

  • McHarg-type resource-based assessments which view landscape or scenic values as only one criterion in a wider ecological approach;
  • expert assessments employed as the basis for broad brush strategic initiatives;
  • Q Sort or public participation employed to support expert assessment and to provide more detailed knowledge about human perceptions of landscape;
  • ecological classification focused upon key areas that display a greater preponderance of remnant natural values;
  • Scenic Beauty Estimation employed for more constrained studies that focus upon a narrow field of interest and investigation;
  • GIS continuing primarily as a storage tool but also being increasingly used to model landscape change (to assist in evaluation of different landscape 'futures');
  • continued employment of Visual Absorption Capability assessment - primarily employing key parameters;
  • continued discrete assessment of urban landscapes, with parametric assessment increasingly displaced by public preference analysis.



6.3.1    Perhaps the most hotly debated and controversial area within the field of landscape assessment is how values can be ascribed to natural features, especially at an aesthetic or scenic level. Because this area is of such importance in the field, this section of the report sets out the basic different approaches that have been developed hitherto.

6.3.2    The subject of the evaluation of landscape resources has exercised considerable attention since the early days of the development of landscape assessment as a discipline. A number of factors have driven the search for models of evaluation which are objective or scientifically provable. In particular, the requirement in many jurisdictions that landscape evaluation withstand quasi-judicial or judicial scrutiny has driven the search for objective methods of defining landscape value. In addition, the requirement to evaluate scenic resources alongside the physical resources, has directed a lot of attention towards evaluation of visual qualities. The ability to quantify scenic values is also desirable in a field that is increasingly driven by parametric multi-variant computer analysis and GIS.

6.3.3    There is a fundamental theoretical divergence of opinion over the question of whether landscapes have an intrinsic or objective beauty which may in some way be measurable or comparable, or whether scenic beauty is a value that can only be subjectively attributed to an area or specific landscape.

6.3.4    Numerous techniques of landscape evaluation have been devised in recent years. They form a spectrum in which the extremes are represented on the one hand by techniques based unequivocally on the subjective assessments of landscape quality by individuals or groups and on the other by techniques using physical attributes of landscape as surrogates for personal perception.

6.3.5     JoAnna Wherrett of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute suggests that the various techniques for landscape evaluation can be subdivided several ways (Wherrett, date unknown). In her review, the methods are split into descriptive inventories, public preference methods and a third category of quantitative holistic techniques. The following description of the various approaches is an edited version of part of Wherrett's PhD thesis, Natural Landscape Scenic Preference: Techniques for Evaluation and Simulation, entitled 'Landscape Evaluation'.

            Descriptive inventories

6.3.6     Descriptive inventories comprise the largest category of techniques for assessing scenic resources; they include both quantitative and qualitative methods of evaluating landscapes by analysing and describing their components.

6.3.7    The descriptive inventory approach contains several assumptions. One is that the value of a landscape can be explained in terms of the values of its components. Another is that scenic beauty is embedded in the landscape components, that it is a physical attribute of the landscape. Two examples of the descriptive inventory approach are formal-aesthetic models and ecological models.

           Formal aesthetic models

6.3.8    The basic theory of the formal aesthetic model is that aesthetic values are inherent in the abstract features of the landscape i.e. aesthetic quality resides in the formal properties of the landscape. These properties are defined as basic forms, lines, colours and textures and their interrelationships (Daniel and Vining, 1983). In this model landscapes are first analysed into their formal abstract properties. The relationships between these elements are then inspected to classify each area in terms of variety, unity, integrity or other complex formal characteristics. Due to the formal training required for this, the method is almost always applied by an expert, usually a landscape architect.

  • Because the landscape-quality assessment results in ordered categories, and not in cardinal or interval measures, it is difficult to relate these assessments to other resource values. Thus, valuing landscape quality relative to other values is difficult.
  • The formal aesthetic model has become the model in prime use throughout the UK.

           Ecological models

6.3.9    Within the ecological model, the environmental features that are relevant to landscape quality are primarily biological or ecological. The landscape is characterised in terms of species of plants and animals present, ecological zones, succession stage or other indicators of ecological processes. Humans are characterised as users of the landscape, their contribution is in the form of negative aesthetic impacts.

6.3.10   Ecological models tend to be designed for specific areas and are therefore difficult to apply to landscapes in general; they are also more sensitive in distinguishing between natural and human-influenced environments than in making distinctions within either of those classes. If the alternatives for land management are to manipulate or not manipulate the environment, the ecological models will almost invariably indicate against any manipulation.

6.3.11  A major underlying assumption of the ecological model is that landscape quality is directly related to naturalness, or ecosystem integrity. The validity of this model depends upon the assumption that "natural" areas undisturbed by humans are highest in landscape quality. Reliability depends on the consistency and accuracy of the individual applying the method as the assessments are usually carried out by an "ecological expert".

 Public Preference Models

6.3.12  The recent upsurge in public interest in preserving the beauty of public lands has resulted in development of scenic assessment based on public input. Indeed, it can be argued logically that the best source of data upon such a subjective issue as landscape quality is the general public. Although landscape architects may claim that it is their duty to guide public taste in these matters, the visual attractiveness of the landscape may ultimately be seen as a product of the aggregated opinions of all the individuals concerned with that landscape.

6.3.13  Under public preference models, the visual quality (or value) of a landscape is rated on the basis of an observer's individual preference of the whole landscape. The essence of the preference approach is the judgement of the landscape in totality, as opposed to the measurement techniques, which rely on the definition of factors to explain variation in landscape quality.

6.3.14   Questionnaires or verbal surveys are the most commonly used non-quantitative method for sampling scenic preference of various groups. They are a valuable source of quick information but accuracy can be sacrificed for speed. They are useful for determining preferences for extremely divergent categories of landscape. As an alternative to questionnaires, visual stimuli such as photographs can be provided for evaluation.

6.3.15  There are various difficulties when carrying out such evaluations. Past studies show that the personality of the observer, and their location, affects what they observe, as does the duration of observation, the socio-economic profile of the observers, the type of physical characteristics of the landscape and the dynamics of its components and its complexity.

6.3.16  The techniques have other problems - their psychological basis is at best uncertain; the validity of their quantitative or semi-quantitative results is invariably questionable; and in order to be representative of society's views, they require extensive, time-consuming surveys.

 Quantitative Holistic Methods

6.3.17  Quantitative holistic methodologies combine two approaches: quantitative public preference surveys and descriptive inventories of landscape features. Measures of landscape quality should be systematically related to physical / biological and social features of the environment so that accurate predictions of the implications of environmental change can be made.

6.3.18  Such models represent a compromise between techniques which assess the effects of landscape elements on overall preference by summing evaluations of individual dimensions (descriptive inventories) and techniques which emphasise the interactions of landscape elements by evaluating the scenic quality of the entire image (preference models); this compromise creates the quantitative holistic models such as the psychophysical and surrogate component models.

           Psychophysical models

6.3.19  Psychophysical methods of landscape assessment seek to determine mathematical relationships between the physical characteristics of the landscape and the perceptual judgements of human observers. The relationships of interest are those between physical features of the environment (e.g. topography, vegetation, water etc.) and psychological responses (typically judgements of preference, aesthetic value or scenic beauty). Landscape features such as land cover, land use, forest stand structure, and arrangement are measured and then statistically related to scenic quality judgements. Models such as paired comparisons, Likert scales, and sorting and ranking scales are a means to evaluate scenes quantitatively. Multiple linear regression has recently been the most commonly used techniques to determine these relationships.

6.3.20  Of all landscape assessments, these methods have been subjected to the most rigorous and extensive evaluation. They have been shown to be very sensitive to subtle landscape variations and psychophysical functions have proven very robust to changes in landscapes and in observers. Relying on ordinal or interval scales of measurement, psychophysical methods have consistently been able to provide different landscape-quality assessments for landscapes that vary only subtly. However, they require the full range of scenes to be selected to represent all of the physical characteristics used as predictors of scenic beauty. They also provide good assessments of public perceptions of the relative scenic quality differences between landscapes based on the assumption that the aesthetic judgements of public panels provide an appropriate measure of landscape quality.

6.3.21  However, the models can be expensive and time consuming to develop and are restricted to a particular landscape type and to a specified viewer population and perspective; in the short term they are not highly efficient.

6.3.22  Psychophysical assessments are useful in many management contexts - features such as quantitative precision, objectivity, and a basis in public perception and judgement are important. The assessments are not based on one expert's opinion, but reflect a measured consensus among observers representative of the public that views landscapes and is affected by management actions.

 Surrogate component models

6.3.23  The basis of component techniques is the identification and measurement of those physical components of the landscape which are regarded as surrogates of scenic quality. The individual components are isolated, their identification and measurement discussed and their combined utility within existing techniques evaluated. Because component ratings are compared to overall preference ratings in these models, the contribution of particular components to scenic beauty can be measured in terms of explained variance.

6.3.24  These components can be assigned to three groups in relation to their assumed importance in determining scenic quality. The major components comprise the landscape skeleton as expressed by macro relief (measured by terrain types), relative relief and water presence (measured by drainage density). To these can be added the minor but permanent components which are the variations of the macro forms at smaller scales. They are the overall variations such as surface texture and ruggedness, particular features such as the irregularity of two-dimensional outlines and three-dimensional forms, and the singularities such as isolated features. Finally, there are the transitory components with regard to the characteristics of water bodies and surface textures (Crofts, 1975).



6.4.1    Because the current Study requires the analysis and evaluation of landscape and townscape (which may be defined as 'urban landscape') features equally, this section of the report comprises a brief overview of the principal different techniques of townscape assessment which have been developed in the latter part of the last century.

6.4.2    As mentioned above, the field of landscape assessment has rarely dealt with urban areas, and what may be termed 'townscape assessment' has more usually been confined to the field of urban design. Therefore the two fields of landscape and townscape assessment have developed in parallel, with two largely distinct sets of techniques. It is useful to address the principal techniques applied in the field of townscape analysis to identify whether they can be incorporated in some way into a unified methodology in the current Study.

6.4.3    Problems of mapping landscape, whether urban or rural, first demand an answer to the question of what is being mapped. In order to select the components to be mapped, it must be understood what features or attributes of that environment are significant. Significance in these terms can be defined in a number of different ways. A number of approaches are analysed below which treat different characteristics of townscape as significant and use those characteristics as the basis for a system of analysis.

Kevin Lynch - Imageability and 'The Image of the City'


6.4.4    In 1958, Kevin Lynch and students of MIT carried out the 'Boston Image' project, with a view to proposing urban improvements to the downtown area of Boston. In particular, the study sought to address why that area appeared to have no real character or identity. This work, and other subsequent academic work, led to Lynch's seminal work 'The Image of the City' (Lynch, 1961). Lynch's approach and research method was based in the field of perceptual psychology. By means of structured interviews with members of the public, he sought to identify how their mental image of the city was made up: what attributes were key in their analysis of form and quality. By asking interviewees to describe imagined journeys through Boston, New Jersey and Los Angeles, he discovered that there were five common urban elements by which the mental image of the public was constructed and which they used to navigate their imaginary journeys. These elements were:

  • Path
  • Edge
  • Node
  • District
  • Landmark

6.4.5    His thesis was that these elements, those which respondents found most memorable or important, comprise a common mental image of the city. They are the components which allow the city to be read and which give it its character. This 'legibility' or 'imageability' he argued, defined a crucial characteristic of the city, allowing citizens to place themselves within it and to navigate their way around it. Whilst this mental image of the city might vary from individual to individual, there were nevertheless enough features to constitute a 'group image'.

6.4.6    To the extent that a city was 'imageable', Lynch argued, it was successful in creating a positive sense of place or character. Those cities which were not 'imageable' had, he concluded, a poor sense of place or character. Lynch concluded therefore, that the five elements above, identified most consistently by his respondents, were those which urban analysis and urban design should be most concerned with. Lynch developed a graphic notion for each of these elements that could be used in mapping urban areas.

6.4.7    Lynch's key concepts and notation is perhaps the most widely used form of urban analysis and has been on wide-spread basis world-wide for the last 40 years, though frequently elaborated upon. It is interesting to note that the concepts of 'district', 'edge' and 'landmark' have been adopted in the field of landscape architecture and landscape assessment.


6.4.8    The key virtues of Lynch's approach are two fold:

  • It has its roots in the science of perceptual psychology and is to that extent, an objective and verifiable approach, which avoids criteria of 'quality' in favour of a more objective criterion of imageability;
  • It defines a coherent and rational language and system of notation (that could be extended to landscape as well as townscape).

6.4.9    However, these very virtues, also represent shortcoming to the method. Because Lynch's method aims at a certain scientific rigour, it is one that concentrates largely on the absence or presence of certain components and largely ignores issues of variable character or quality. Indeed, there is prima facie no connection with concepts such as 'legibility' or 'sense of place' with the quality or character of the environment. Indeed, it seems a little crude to suggest that if a city has enough 'imageable' components, it will somehow have a positive character or quality.

6.4.10  Lynch's classification is therefore an extremely useful starting point in the analysis and mapping of urban landscape. However, to make it workable, it probably requires some refinement in order to introduce concepts such as differential character or quality.

Gordon Cullen - Serial Vision and 'Townscape'


6.4.11  At the same time as Lynch was developing his concept of 'imageability' in the USA, Gordon Cullen, an architect in the UK, was developing an analysis of urban form which he fully developed in his seminal work 'Townscape' (Cullen, 1961).

6.4.12  Cullen's thesis is that the urban landscape is best understood as a series of visual and psychological experiences as one moves through it, much as a movie is best understood as a sequence of images which produce a changing response in the viewer. This approach, he termed 'serial vision' and he illustrated it using a series of sequential sketches which showed an ever changing image of a city as one moves progressively through its spaces.

6.4.13  In stark contrast to Lynch, Cullen's approach is entirely intuitive and unscientific. Cullen explains the design of the urban realm as a series "gambits", design strategies or relationship of spaces and features which are common to all (good) urban environments. He gave these gambits names such as "silhouette', "division of space" and "looking out of enclosure" and illustrated them with persuasive photographs and sketches.

6.4.14  In his book 'Notation', Cullen developed a notation system for use in mapping the urban environment, which includes his serial vision sequences. This notation system identifies fairly objective features such as "space barrier", "pedestrian access" "levels" and "cross-sectional proportion", but also tries to map highly subjective qualities such as "ambience" and "random/architectural" organisation.

6.4.15  Cullen applied his notation over a number of studies, notably in A Town Called Alcan and his detailed level of analysis has been applied in more detailed urban design appraisals, notably in Design Briefing in Towns, Scottish Development Department, 1978. Because of its detailed scale of analysis, the method has, unsurprisingly, not been applied in landscape at a regional scale.


6.4.16  Key attributes of Cullen's approach are:

  • its ultimate reliance on high degrees of subjectivity and intuitiveness by professional assessors;
  • its somewhat enigmatic or intangible characteristics and
  • its highly qualitative approach.

6.4.17  On its own terms, the method is weak in that apart from the characteristics which are truly objective (and which ultimately replicate the duties of a surveyor) the categories selected for mapping appear somewhat arbitrary and selective (e.g. it is strange that 'landscape' characteristics get no mention at all). In addition, many of the categories are rather coarse (for example, his notation 'ambience' does not communicate at all the quality of the place).

6.4.18  In addition, the method is orientated at a very detailed (almost architectural level) and works best at the scale of the city block, rather than at the scale of a city as a whole. Whilst the method has a limited usefulness as a record of expert evaluation, it will not withstand significant scientific scrutiny.

6.4.19  Ultimately, Cullen's approach is as romantic and qualitative as that of Alexander (see below). As a method for objectively recording "impressions" of the urban landscape at a detailed and subjective level, it has a certain value, but beyond this, it is seriously flawed as a vehicle for objective analysis at a wide level. Because of this, it is not a suitable vehicle for townscape assessment at a regional scale.

Christopher Alexander - The Quality without a Name and 'A Pattern Language'


6.4.20  During the sixties and seventies, architectural theoretician, Christopher Alexander developed an approach to the analysis of architectural and urban form in his trilogy, 'The Timeless Way of Building', 'A Pattern Language" and "the Oregon Experiment". This approach, he termed a 'pattern language'.

6.4.21  Alexander's thesis is that built spaces (of any scale from interiors to cities) are defined by their 'patterns', or relationships of components. 'Patterns' are spatial configurations, relationships of built components, which repeated over and over again throughout the built environment, give rise to places with a discernible quality. These patterns or spatial types, are he argues, an expression of the functional requirements of a place and the psychological needs of the builders/users. Patterns are therefore generated by the very people that use places and understand their requirements and meaning. In his book, A Pattern Language, Alexander identifies 253 different patterns from domestic through to urban scales. Examples of such patterns at an urban scale include 'city country fingers', 'main gateway', 'accessible greens', 'mosaic of subcultures' and 'subculture boundary'.

6.4.22  Such patterns, are developed over centuries and millennia by thousands of separate acts of building. Over the course of time, the 'design' of these types of spaces is refined by their builders until they achieve a prefect balance of functionality and human psychological requirements. At this point, we perceive these spaces to be harmonious, memorable or to have an appealing character. Thereby, the pattern and the space has, as Alexander terms it, brought "forces into balance" and appears to be "alive". So difficult to define is this character which arises, when a pattern achieves its full fruition, that Alexander terms it 'the quality without a name'.

6.4.23  At an urban level, Alexander is interested not so much in individual urban elements, but the relationship between elements, that is, the "pattern" of those elements. In this approach, patterns of elements which constitute "veranda" are as interesting as the patterns of elements which constitute a "town square". He therefore expounds a typology of spaces, which has a nesting or inter-related structure and which repeat themselves again and again throughout a city. However, it is the specific repetition of specific patterns and elements, the "language" that this creates, which gives rise to the specific structure of a place and therefore, its character.

6.4.24  Alexander's approach has not been widely adopted in townscape assessment, although it has garnered a small 'cult' following. This is probably because it is more useful as a toll for understanding the design process than for analysis. Certainly the slightly mystical content of Alexander's theory has probably dissuaded practitioners from its use. Alexander has used the method as a design tool in his research studies (viz. The Oregon Experiment).


6.4.25  Alexander's approach is ultimately typological and classificatory, although many of his types are more appropriate as design principles than tools of analysis. However, it is more useful than certain forms of classifications because of its emphasis on understanding what it is that makes a pattern successful. The method is certainly open to criticism for its rather subjective approach and its highly intangible and 'spiritual' content (indeed, his 'quality' has no name) means that it is difficult to submit it to rigorous objective discourse.

6.4.26  What is interesting is that, put crudely, Alexander's is ultimately a search for 'character' ('the Quality without a Name') in the urban landscape. In this sense, the character of a whole is defined by the sum interaction of a number of different typological components. Strangely, this is very much the approach that has been adopted in landscape assessment in the UK in recent years. Certainly, expert approaches to evaluation of landscape value, which often appear inscrutable or non-scientific to the general public, smack very much of 'the Quality without a Name'. In addition, it is possible to draw parallels between Alexander's emphasis on the relationships of elements and the patterns they create and the work of the METLAND group in testing public preference on the visual compatibility of various land use patterns (in Zube et.al, 1975).

6.4.2    In summary, Alexander's patterns may be useful in the field of landscape assessment for the following reasons:

  • They offer the potential for integrating urban analysis with rural analysis (i.e. by identifying rural 'patterns');
  • They adopt a largely classificatory or typological approach which conforms to much of current practice in the field of landscape assessment;
  • There is a strong emphasis on 'character' or value (the 'Quality Without a Name' as both a classificatory and evaluative criterion, again conforming to the practice of landscape assessment in the UK.

Grady Clay - Geolinguistics and 'Generic Landscapes'


6.4.28  Grady Clay, an eminent commentator and theoretician on landscape architecture in the US, developed during the 1970s and 80s a typology of generic landscapes based on what he terms a theory of "geolinguistics". This is presented in his book Real Places: An Unconventional Guide to America's Generic Landscape (Clay, 1994).

6.4.29  Clay's concern is to identify a typology of urban and suburban landscape/townscape that is based around linguistic convention, or the words that we use to describe certain types of places and the associated meanings and spatial implications that the description captures. As he states,

6.4.30  "to understand our man-made neighbourhoods and the world beyond, we must deal with classes of places - sorts of places which do not exist "out there" but are products of the human mind. We talk about these generic, man-made places...as our places-in-common. As generic places, they have no latitude...They have no longitude. But without them, we cannot navigate today's world".

6.4.31  Clay's concern is, as noted above, predominantly with urban and suburban landscape rather than with rural and his approach is essentially based on the field of semantics. He uses the sociology and activities which take in a place (as well as attendant connotations), to define them, as much as he does their spatial characteristics.

6.4.32  Clay deals with three broad types of landscape/townscape:

  • The City Centre
  • The Suburbs
  • The Rural Fringe and Countryside

6.4.33  These landscapes/townscapes are broken down further into sub-classes and finally into generic landscape types. Examples of his generic landscapes include "downtown", "boondocks", "fleamarket", "mixed/multi-use complex", "mega-mall", "cultural arts district" (and even "porno district" and "suicide spot"!).

6.4.34  The classificatory approach which Clay has developed has been applied to urban areas in the UK, notably in the Tidal Thames Landscape Assessment and Design Guidelines (1996) and in the Fareham Borough Landscape Assessment (1996). These studies do not, however, adopt a wholly linguistic or semantic approach, but develop landscape types out of compound descriptive terms based on land-use and location, which rely to a small extent on semantic association (e.g. 'original 'wharf landscapes', 'compact commercial landscapes' or 'riverside meadows').


6.4.35  Clay's approach is also remarkable in that it is one of the few attempts at a classificatory approach to the urban landscape, based on 'character', rather than predominantly on spatial form. To this extent, Clay's approach is an interesting transition of an approach derived from landscape architecture, applied to the urban realm. It is also remarkable in that it deals at once with urban and sub-rural landscapes equally.

6.4.36  There is a similarity between Clay's approach and that of Alexander (above), whose "patterns" are defined by the activities which take place in them, giving rise to their forms. However, where Alexander draws a universal spatial characteristic out of these patterns, Clay implies that the uses in his generic landscapes may give rise to patterns which may change with culture or geography.6.4.37 A shortcoming of Clay's approach is that in dealing with landscape/townscape at a linguistic level (indeed his work appears somewhat to be a lexicon in its style), there are often alarming disparities of scale such as the jump from "bio-region" to "curb-side". While interesting culturally and linguistically, this makes his method difficult to apply at a consistent and coherent scale.

6.4.38  In addition, the method is ultimately highly subjective. Even if a common set of semantic associations with landscape types could be scientifically established (by group survey for example), their application would still be subjective.

6.4.39  This is not however to say that classifications could not be established using quantifiable provable criteria (landform, vegetation cover, etc) and then appropriate descriptive words applied to connote semantic references (although not starting from a linguistic point of view in fact denies Clay's approach). This is in fact the procedure in use in much of the western world, particularly the UK.

6.4.40   However, Clay's 'generic landscapes' and classificatory approach offer a clear way forward for the Study in that they offer the possibility of applying a typology based on character (the standard landscape architectural approach) to urban and suburban conditions. What would be required to take this approach forward is a redefinition of his types of generic landscape so that they could be applied at a consistent scale.


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