Landscape architecture refers to the designing of environments, along with natural or semi-natural terrestrial surroundings. Anything we see and experience is bound to have some impact on us. A sight of well-designed controlled landscape design and the expanse of wilderness, both affect our mind in different ways, which further depends on our emotional state at the moment of reception. Environmental psychology means ‘an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the interplay between individuals and their surroundings.’
We immediately and subconsciously respond to our first experience of variant landscape environments—the evaluation and analysis of said environment happens in a jiffy without us knowing; it takes place because we belong in and to the surroundings as a small part of this entity.
There are two sides to this interaction—one is concerned with the inner world of the human mind, and the other of the physical reality. It pertains to our primary senses: vision, touch, hearing, smelling, tasting, and perhaps also our sixth sense (non-corporeal intuition). A full evaluation of landscapes is possible when all visual, sensory, and cognitive perceptions are involved- because they amplify each other- to create the whole image.
The environment is not an object requiring subjects. One can only be a participant because “the environment, surrounds, enfolds, engulfs and nothing and no-one can be isolated and identified and apart from it” (Littleton; ibid.)
The human emotive reactions stimulated by an environment are positive or negative dualities: beautiful (attraction) vs. ugly (repulsion), pleasure vs. displeasure, comfort vs. discomfort, likes vs. dislikes, safety (security) vs. danger (fear), happy vs. sad, engaging vs. repetitive, comprehension vs. confusion, etc. Specific variables will be associated with specific senses.
The primary psychology of the design principle is ‘defensible space’. We are comfortable when we feel like there is enough ‘wall barrier’ and when we have superior visual viewpoint vantages. These two elements together in our surroundings allow for lesser dependence on barriers. It gives us a sense of security and a view with extent, thus giving our eyes pleasure, along with relaxation. Landscape design is a process of creating space that will impart a character of feeling or emotion. The aspect of the emotional impact is often abandoned for aesthetics and the materials.
Landscape cognition is the most elaborate level in the analysis of landscape and the forming of a perception. Thus, it is an important element in the establishment of the landscape identity and aura of the place, as well as in the development of attachment to the place.
Today, due to the growing population and urbanism, the urban fabric of the cities has started endearing a negative impact on our minds. Endless suburbs consisting of neighborhoods with rows of mostly indistinguishable houses situated as close together as possible to make room for more housing units, it effectively removed every aspect of human touch. The need for more has created a cold, unwelcoming environment that does not produce a positive physiological response or a sense of well-being. The public landscape areas provide solace to the overstretched and anxious city dweller, to break this monotony in the cities.
As per the World Health Organisation, city dwellers have an almost 40% increased risk of depression, over 20% more of tension, and double the chance of developing schizophrenia compared to those who live in the countryside. This alarming trend occurs as city living can decrease access to nature, reduce opportunities for regular exercise, and separate people who move to the city from their networks of friends and family without building a new, substantial social network.
The importance of city greenery for city dwellers’ health and well-being has drawn attention time and again. Urban green spaces – i.e., greenery within the city like parks, green areas, schoolyards, and gardens belonging to a house – are viewed as health-promoting elements of urban planning.
“From a wider perspective, the urban landscape is a part of the urban matrix. Urban landscape design is not urban design, but a crucial part of it. Hence, factors influencing urban design also influence the form and functioning of urban landscapes.” (Memlük, 2012)
Psychology is the study of behavioral responses of people, and it may suggest a vital understanding of the people-nature transaction. Plants have a direct effect on our minds, which arise from experience and a person’s background and nature. These psychological phenomena can be determined and calculated.
Green vegetation and plants are one of the chief materials for the landscape architect, as opposed to those considering only the structural components of a building. Plants cover much of the earth, which makes it the most universal natural resource. Environments dominated by plants are perceived by most as a preferable environment and are regarded as valuable in terms of beautification, health, and freedom. Landscape architecture marries attributes of coherence, legibility, mystery, and complexity to create an overall impression of enhancing the well-being of people.
The aim of a well-designed landscape is thus to create a pattern of positive and pleasurable emotional responses—A sense of peace.
Memlük M. Z.2012 Urban landscape design
Jacobs, M. (2011). Psychology of the visual landscape. Research in Urbanism Series, 2, 41-54. DOI:10.7480/rius.2.206