Is beauty quantifiable? Some would say it is all a matter of personal preference, and that may be so when it comes to individual taste in music and art. But for a professional assessment of landscape quality and the acceptability of a new proposal in its setting, there are quantifiable and objective standards.
We have all sometimes had heated arguments over personal preferences in art: the traditionalist that does not understand minimalism or abstract art; the rock and roll fanatic that runs screaming from the room when opera is played (or vice versa.) So it is sometimes true that at a personal level, beauty, or the individual’s response to art is indeed subjective. This, however, is not the same as a professional analysis of the visual effect of new building.
The prediction of the visual effect of a new development is often a bone of contention. There can be wide divergences of opinion over the appearance of development or the degree to which it intrudes into established views. Also, the degree to which the proposals fit within the existing context – townscape or landscape.
I was recently cross-examined at length on the visual impact of a proposal, with opposing Counsel saying, in effect: “Surely this is all a matter of opinion?”
But, as I testified, it is not a matter of opinion. If the extensive, well-tested tools and methodologies of landscape and visual assessment are used, the development effects are rigorously and fully analysed. This analysis leads to an objective assessment of “beauty” – in this case, visual harmony, appropriateness of scale in the context and so forth.
In the case of the proposal for which I was challenged, the assessment included accurately scaled photographs and visualisations, comparisons with existing buildings, and a comparative (scaled) analysis of effects. The analytic process responds and refutes the common challenge: it is all subjective and a question of one witness’s opinion against another.
Studies show that high quality Landscape and Ecological design within new developments can increase property values by as much as 34%.
The Landscape Institute’s recent article, Profitable Places: why housebuilders invest in landscape, explores the ways in which house builders can significantly increase the value and desirability of their properties by investing in good quality landscape schemes.
For centuries, Landscape Architects and designers have recognised the value of landscape within our towns and cities; from Olmstead’s design for Central Park to the Garden Cities of Ebenezer Howard. This article examines the value that current house buyers place on open space and quality landscapes, and how this is reflected in house prices; with some house prices proven to increase by as much as a third where there were views of a park from the property.
The paper examines five case studies to show how this has been implemented successfully and significantly increased the value of the development. To access a copy of the full article, click here.
Nature’s Benefits to Health, Wealth and Security
The evidence that access to open space and semi-natural areas improves health is just one of the many facts discussed in the new book from Tony Juniper ‘What nature does for Britain’.
From the peat bogs and woodlands that help to secure our water supply, to the bees and soils that produce most of the food we eat, Britain is rich in ‘natural capital’. Through vivid first-hand accounts, Juniper takes readers on a journey to a different Britain from the one many assume we inhabit, not a country where nature is worthless or an impediment to progress, but the real Britain, the one where we are supported by nature, wildlife and natural systems at almost every turn.
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