A viewscape is all of the land and water seen from a point or along a series of points (e.g., a road or trail). Violating the very name, it is also a point being viewed (e.g., a lookout, building, or sign). Viewscape management includes describing, planning, and designing the visual aspects of all components of the area, then working to achieve specific related objectives. Managing the "seen aspects" may greatly effect the perceived spirit of a place. All resource activities or management practices are included. Activities typically will include on-the-ground and computer-aided analyses of visual influences, at least before construction or action.
Actions, wherever possible, can emphasize as well as harmonize the viewscape. A bad experience with an even or scene experienced by the public can result in costly delays, law suits, and repressed public relations that may last for years. Viewscapes, like streams and soil, must be managed.See Solid Homes for additional discussion of esthetic and viewscape issues.
Stillman (1966:5) said:
... A view offers a chance to look away at nothing much; to see variety in distance, shape, color, and texture. One thinks about anything but what one sees at such a time. We all need the chance to look with unseeing eyes ...
Many people within the natural resource fields discuss at length esthetics (even its alternative spelling "aesthetics"), beauty, attractiveness, and the role of scenery in recreation and ecosystem management. Among staff of Rural Syatem we shall be discussing an evolving concept of the perceptual and conceptual resource. The concept builds upon and unifies some older concepts and, we believe, creates a new concept that may cast a long shadow.
Resources are goods and services. Natural resources have the four interactive components of energy and or matter, time, space, and variety. If forest esthetics (see Feb 1995 Journal of Forestry 93(2)) is anything, it is what a forest does to or for people, thus a service. Perhaps it is a peculiar "good" that supplies a service, but that seems an unnecessary distinction to be made. Arguing that it, whatever "it" is (for the moment), is a service and experienced or utilized by people, then we can attempt to name its major components. These are (expanded for the future, beyond visual):
|1Part of the concept of place, I believe will someday be recognized as being an electromagnetic perception of a force (molecular orientations) apparently present in migratory birds and other creatures. This is a natural "matching" of body forces to local-place forces, thus avoiding a very low level dissonance).|
Part of this resource is obviously space and variety, but not-so-obvious (the evidence is in its omission) is time. A scene may change seasonally and over the years. A scene may be what can be remembered from the past (e.g., a field where soldiers once fought).
Gobster (1994) said the Leopold never explicitly outlined his "ecological esthetic" but had a view that an esthetic experience is as cerebral as it is perceptual. A major part of this cerebral resource is the feeling that goes with perception, especially that when a scene or situation is "beautiful", the things there are also protected (Schuh 1995). An area seen from a distance and not particularly unattractive may be perceived as ugly because of past experience close at hand with such areas having erosion, stream sediments, and trash. "A clearcut or a trail by company X" is the perception and that includes either experiences, TV viewing, and other learning experiences.
We manage the perceptual resource. It may include "study of" esthetics but that is much too narrow a view.
We define beauty as seasonal and that for a named group of people. Although variable, we define beauty as expressed in relative terms for a situation -- maximum, median, mean, and minimum (where negative values are those of relative ugliness).
Certain features or phenomena detract from the presence or quality of a situation and the probability that the scene will be judged beautiful by the named group of people at a specified time. The detractors include, for example, high noise levels.
Scenes or situations may be of equal value.
Scenes are weighted relative to each other.
Once the resource is defined, it may be possible to improve, stabilize, or easily reduce its value. A site may be more or less easily "ruined", made less beautiful or, past a point, more ugly. Most conditions are manageable -- can be improved in reasonable time to a desired level at reasonable cost, then to maximize users of the higher valued resource; minimize those of the lower valued resource...and to set up conditions to maximize the sum over a planning period (say 50 years). Expected scenes can be clarified so that expectations of people will match well with what they observe.
We have a concept of the rural culture that we shall be willing to implement, describing scenes, themes, current scene scores, dynamics of the scores, county beauty index, and a procedure to negotiate balancing losses and gains in natural beauty that may result from proposed development.
|Potential Actions in Managing the Perceptual Resource:
The following are typically included in prescriptions, and a scoring mechanism developed with them to provide incentives and contractual limits for work within the county:
|Erosion, not of soil but of a view|
The area provides points, linear views, and vast areas or vistas judged differently as interesting, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. The natural components of the area are attractions for many. Changes in where people live and increased urbanization will likely increase interest in the scenic values of the area.
The land of the region is beautiful but that beauty can be enhanced. Even more important, it must be managed so that it is not diminished and so that the full messages of the Rural System and of a system of total land management can be carried forward onto other lands. Staff will develop a plan, policies, and procedures for esthetic enhancement and management of the area that will include an integrated system for other lands. This will give the lands of the enterprise a personality and assure benefactors that their lands will be similarly treated. Not another 'park service' or 'forest service' appearance, the new 'look' of the Rural System Tracts shows care, attention to studied concepts of natural beauty, cost effective work, diversity, sustainability, durability, and functional amendments to views and scenes. Talking about natural beauty is difficult and almost meaningless. We shall develop a concept and implement select elements for the county with a full scale presentation shortly after that.
Minor changes in a viewscape can cause significant outcry and concern for the scenic resource or overall viewscape of the area. Having quantified studies allows at least some degree of status, of standing, and of legal defense.
Sensitivity zones will be mapped within the GIS by System Central. Level-I zones have great importance or sensitivity to visual change. The levels are closely related to the risk of being viewed as "ugly" or, conversely the probability of falling from a class of "beautiful."
Size and location of forest operations (if any) are an example of a viewscape problem of concern. Future developments will use the viewscape analyses of The Trevey.
Other significant aspects of the planned action:
Preliminary planned list of standard views
See The Trevey's Viewscape Management and Views as one of the major benefits offered by Rural System.
See Scenic Quality Management
We plan to evaluate the potential visual impact of all management activities (recreation, timber, water, wildlife, and mineral activities, road, trail, and facility construction and species uses.) Trained personnel will make evaluations. If the evaluation shows an unacceptable contrast rating, or if a feature or focal landscape is involved, efforts will be made to reduce effects or alter the project.
See litter and viewscape ideas for Wise County, Virginia.
Reference Bergen, S.D., J.L. Fridley, M.A. Ganter, and P. Schiess. 1995. Predicting the visual effect of forest operations. J. Forestry 93: (2) 33-37
Part of the concept of place, I believe will someday be recognized as being an electromagnetic perception of a force (molecular orientations) apparently present in migratory birds and other creatures. This is a natural "matching" of body forces to local-place forces, thus avoiding a very low-level dissonance. See also E.O. Wilson's discussions of esthetics in Consilience.
Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 2, 2005