Landscape Perception

The things we see on a daily basis and the way we all view the world is derived from our personal perspectives and observations. Some might say that a landscape architect is part architect, part horticulturalist, part engineer, part historian, and part artist. Would you believe that as landscape architects we have the ability to be part magician as well?

As landscape architects much of what we design and construct within the landscape revolves around what we want people to perceive. We use little visual tricks such as plant massing, color contrasting, visual barriers (walls, trees, etc…), and more to draw people’s eyes towards certain areas and/or away from other areas of a landscape. When many of us view a property or a park, we sometimes don’t even realize that our eyes are being intentionally guided or tricked into viewing the area in a particular way.

Sometimes it’s something as simple as a landscape architect strategically placing a grove of trees to obstruct your views around a lake. As you walk around the lake you notice a gap between some of the trees that reveals a view to the sun setting behind a historic building/monument, which resides across the lake. The trees in this particular case were placed there to screen your vision in one area and to act as a frame to a beautiful scene in another (the view across the pond to the building) that might not otherwise be the same or have the same dramatic effect when viewed from another angle. It’s a simple hide and reveal. Now you see it. Now you don’t or vice versa.

We sometimes coerce our brains into perceiving things a certain way, but sometimes our brains coerce us into perceiving things a certain way. Our perceptions and observations over the years have trained our brains to observe objects in the world a certain way and sometimes in order to make sense of things our brain can play tricks on us. You can see an example of this very effect, below. Look at the black dot in the center of the picture for 30-35 seconds without blinking. Then look at the white space to the right (and blink really fast). Do you see the original color image? You should.

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