Hello, my name is Dr.
Ann Marie VanDerZanden.
I am a professor of horticulture at Iowa StateUniversity.
and I'd like to welcome you to the Online Garden Design Course.
The module I will be presenting is: LandscapePreference: understanding our connections to plants and nature.
In this presentation I will discuss what weknow about the connections between plants and people to help provide an overarchingcontext for landscape design.
I will also discuss why we as humans prefersome landscape settings over other settings.
This is broadly termed landscape preference.
The concept of landscape preference is groundedin to theories: Behavioral Theory and Humanistic Theory I like to include a brief overview of thesetwo theories because for me when I first started studying landscape preference, once i understoodmore about basic human motivation, I started to understand more about why some landscapesare so wonderful to be in, while others made me feel uncomfortable.
To get started, I first want to talk aboutthe people-plant connection.
There is a large body of research that hasexplored the impact that plants have on our daily lives and overall well-being.
Two areas of research I would like to mention are related to employees and to hospital patients.
In the first study research showed that workers who could see trees and flowers outside from their work station reported their jobs to be less stressful and more satisfying.
And they also had fewer days away from work for medical ailments.
In the studies of hospital patients data showed that those who hadviews of the outside where they could see plants, healed faster, had shorter hospital stays, and required less pain medication.
In these two images I am sharing two of myfavorite, or preferred landscapes.
Both of these places were very specialto me as a child, and even looking at them now, they conjure up wonderful memories.
The deep personal connections we have to landscapes-either natural or those that are built- shouldn’t be underestimated.
This landscape showcases just how personallandscape preference can be.
A student shared this picture with me aftertaking my design courses.
Her point was that this person preferred havinga lot of garden ornamentation in their landscape Next, I will talk about the two differenttheories that support the broad concept of landscape preference.
The first theory I will discuss is BehavioralAssessment.
This concept is rooted in the biological needwe as humans have to survive when we are outside.
In order for our ancestors to survive theoutside spaces they were in, the space itself needed to provide the appropriate habitat.
This is the focus of Habitat Theory.
While in these outdoor spaces we also needto be safe and protected from danger such as wild animals.
And safety is the basis for the Prospect-RefugeTheory.
I’ll come back to the Humanistic Theoryshortly.
The concept of Habitat Theory is pretty straightforward.
As humans we prefer habitats or outdoor spaces that support our survival.
Outdoor spaces that support our survival oftenoffer us the ability to moderate temperature and the amount of exposure (such as sunlight, rain, or wind,) that we experience.
These spaces also provide food and often water.
And they also provide some security and shelter.
The shelter piece is associated with moderatingthe temperature and exposure to elements.
The landscape in this image is a great exampleof an outdoor space that supports the Habitat Theory.
You can see the three sided structure whichmoderates temperature, exposure and provides shelter and security.
There is also a water feature present, Whatisn’t evident is whether or not the space provides food as well.
In modern society that may not be as important.
However an important feature in today’slandscapes is the use of outdoor furniture or other creature comforts that make the landscape feel morelike our homes.
The image on the left has two outdoor livingspaces a deck and patio, and both of them are too exposed to be comfortable.
As a result they do not support the habitattheory very well.
The outdoor living space in the image on theright, better supports the habitat theory.
The space is protected on at least two sides,and the overhead canopy of the trees also creates a sense of enclosure.
Prospect-Refuge Theory is the second partof Behavioral Assessment.
In simple terms we like to be in landscapeswhere we can see (prospect) with out being seen (refuge).
This is one reason the front porch is suchan important part of the landscape.
As a homeowner, I can sit on my porch andwatch the goings on of the neighborhood, but due to some strategically planted shrubs,I’m tucked away a little so everyone driving up and down the street doesn’t fully seeme.
The image on this slide illustrates an exposeddeck with no ‘refuge’, as well as a deck with a small lattice structure added whichdoes provide some protection and as a result ‘refuge’ in the back yard.
Now that I’ve talked about BehavioralAssessment concept as it relates to landscape preference, the next area I want to talk aboutit the Humanistic Assessment.
Humanistic assessment deals with what we ‘learn’about a landscape.
As human we always try to make sense of oursurroundings.
At a most basic level it helps us survivebeing outside.
On a more developed level it helps us enjoyand appreciate being in a space.
It helps us understand how we feel in thespace, and ultimately if we want to stay in that space.
Some specific examples of what we processmentally whenwe enter into an outdoor living space are: Does it seem familiar? Are there distinct patterns? and is it engaging- mentally, physically, or emotionally? Once we decide to stay in a outdoor livingspace, our mind then starts processing four 4 main factors.
Each of these factors significantly influencesour preference for a landscape and include: Coherence, Complexity,Legibility, Mystery.
Coherence is the underlying feel that a landscapeconveys.
A landscape with coherence has a sense oforder to it.
And often this sense of order comes from repetitionof individual elements in the landscape.
Coherent landscape ‘fits together’.
In this image the landscape exhibits a lotof coherence because of the repetition of curves plant materials such as shrubs and ground covers and the green colors Complexity is the second preference factor and gets atour need for landscapes to be mentally engaging.
Complexity provides this by providing a varietyof elements for us to look at.
However, there needs to be a comfortable balancebetween visual chaos and boredom.
The planting bed in this image has a mix ofbright colors (yellow and red) and more subdued colors (green and purple).
This combination provides a good amount of visual interest.
on of curves, plant materials (shrubs andgroundcovers) and the green color.
Legibility is the third factor that influenceslandscape preference.
The concept of legibility is important becauseit is the factor that enables us to understand or ‘read’ a landscape.
For example, when we walk into an outdoorspace one of the first questions that enters our mind is “Will I get lost if I ventureinto the space?” Can I find my way back to the starting place? Are there clues that will help with my way-finding? This image shows pathways, arbors overthe paths, and focal points that all help guide a person through the landscape.
Each of these can be considered visual cuesthat help a person know how to move through the space.
These two images further illustrate legibilityin the landscape.
The landscapes in both images have an obviousfocal point: the gazebo at the end of the lawn area in the image on the left; and thewhite arbor and white lawn chairs in the image on the right.
Both landscapes also offer a clear way toget to the focal point.
In both cases the way to the focal point isclear both visually because of a mostly unobstructed view, and also physically because there isa clear path to walk in order to reach the focal point.
Mystery is the fourth element that influencesour landscape preferences.
And research shows that mystery is the mostimportant of the four factors.
This is because as humans we are curious bynature.
We want to be in outdoor spaces that giveus a sense that there is more to learn or experience in the landscape than just whatwe see when we are standing in one location.
The sidewalk in this image is a great exampleof mystery.
The vantage point that the photo was takenfrom, shows a clear way to move through the landscape, suggesting it is a legible space,but there is also a corner at the end of the far end of the sidewalk that shows that the sidewalkcontinues for quite some distance and that there is more to be experienced in the landscapethan just what can be seen.
The image on the left gets at the age oldquestion- What’s around the corner? There is a clear way to explore that, butit is unclear where the path ends which provides a sense of mystery.
The image on the right makes a person wonder:What is behind the gate? Because you can see through the iron gateit is clear that there is something of interest on the other side.
But you won’t know exactly what is in thereuntil you open the gate and begin to explore that part of the landscape.
This brings me to the conclusion of this presentationon landscape preference and understanding the connections we have to plants and nature.
In summary, this presentation has highlightedthat there is substantial evidence, both anecdotal and research based, that plants and naturaland built landscapes play an important role in our lives.
Further, what we know about landscape preferenceshows that preference is both in our genes and learned.
Our individual preferences are present everytime we experience an outdoor space.
And finally, the four key landscape characteristics:coherence, complexity, legibility and mystery, that I highlighted are universal to the overallconcept of landscape preference.
I hope that you've enjoyed this presentationon landscape preference as part of the Iowa State University Department of HorticultureOnline Garden Design Course.