Analysing Visual Quality in Landscape Change Scenarios

Project Status: Completed (See Final Report Summary)
Type of Project: Capacity Building Award
Principal Investigator: Professor David Miller, Macaulay Institute (Email)



The focus of the research is on issues of landscape quality and value, and in particular how changes in landscape impact upon visual quality. The study is designed to develop the capacity of partners to tackle understand public reactions to changes in land use, and the implications for the aesthetics of the landscape. The research programme draws on knowledge from different disciplines, and different countries, with a partner from the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences collaborating with the Landscape Change Science Group of the Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen.

Through combining different scientific backgrounds (e.g. spatial modelling, environmental psychology, landscape use planning) and professional practioners, the study seeks to address the pressures for change, and the implications of changes in land use on the landscape, and in particular its visual qualities. This interdisciplinary approach is essential in order to develop a common understanding of the key issues associated with landscape value and visual quality.

One aspect of the project is the identification of key areas of common understanding with regards to landscape quality. This is being done through the involvement of stakeholders, addressing issues such as:
• What is important in the landscape?
• How could landscape values be analysed?
• What are the driving forces for land use change?
• How does land use change affect landscapes and hence its quality?

Through this involvement with stakeholders user requirements with regards to landscape change and visual quality will be addressed.

A second aspect of the study is the development of a framework for the evaluation of the implications of changes in land use upon the landscape, and public perceptions of the values and qualities which may be subject or sensitive to change. In related research, concepts have been suggested in order to capture dimensions of visual quality. These concepts include aspects of landscape complexity, stewardship, naturalness and visual scale. In this study the spatial application of the concepts are being tested for a case study area in north-east Scotland. This combines a spatial analysis of landscape composition and analysis of photographs, with visualisations of the landscape and public consultation. The outcome of this part of the study will be the development of a prototype set of methods of analysing and testing visual concepts.

This study seeks to contribute both practical methods and an improved understanding of issues associated with the functions of land use (e.g. environmental and social) and their relationship with the landscape.

The expected results of this study are:
• Identification of key areas of common understanding of visual and landscape quality across disciplines and gaps in expertise.
• The production of a prototype set of methods for analysing and testing visual concepts.

Conference Papers and Presentations

Ode, Å. and Miller, D. (2005) "Analysing and communicating landscape change: the VisuLands toolkit". Presentation to: ECLAS Landscape Change Conference, Ankara, Turkey, 14-18th September 2005.

Ode, Å. and Miller, D. (2005) "Analysing visual aspects of landscape: a comparison of different approaches for a Swedish case study area". Poster presented at: Our Shared Landscape, Ascona, Switzerland. 2-6 May 2005.

Sang, N., Ode, Å. and Miller, D. (2005) "Visual topology for analyzing landscape change and preference" Presentation to ECLAS "Landscape Change conference", Ankara, Turkey, 14-18th September 2005.