Subjective response to depicted urban space.
Since the beginning of Japan's post-war boom her major cities, notably Tokyo,
have developed with remarkable speed but relatively little pre-planning and control.
So the consequent economic benefits have been accompanied by a level of visual
Public and governmental opinion has therefore recently begun seeking
development-control guidelines for improving the visual quality of the urban scene.
Some Japanese researchers, building partly on the work of their us colleagues,
have responded by trying to identify the most aesthetically significant aspects of the
urban visual landscape. This thesis contributes to this search a particularly
It begins with a review of urban-design aesthetic theory concentrating on more
recent "psychometric" investigation. It then describes and discusses the main
method of the thesis: representation of urban scenes through video stills, computergenerated
images, or photographs and the exposure to these representation of
groups of sample subjects, and statistical analysis of the subjects' questionnaires
responses. Special attention is paid to the reliability with which the aesthetic
qualities of a given urban configuration can be generalised from 2-d "perspective"
views of it, and to the relationship in subject responses between physical elements
like buildings and trees and abstract characteristics like "openness", "enclosure",
"age", or "expectant space".
These procedures are applied to questionnaires completed by Japanese subjects
regarding representations of various Tokyo street scenes, and by largely British
subjects regarding contrasting "old" and "new" landscapes in the Hampstead and
Milton Keynes areas. Initial investigations suggest that the elements of predominant
subjective significance include the proportion of visible sky, the abundance of
This thesis ends by suggesting aesthetic guidelines drawn from these results,
considering spatial elements and roles of foliage, and discussing aesthetic
assessment for development-control purposes.