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The Experience of Landscape.

For this revised edition of his ground-breaking book on prospect-refuge theory, first published in 1975, Jay Appleton chose to leave the original text intact and add an 11th chapter, 'Stocktaking'. In this he justifies his work, in its relationship to the contributions made by writers in other disciplines over the last 20 years and to the development of environmental aesthetics. But, in taking this limited approach he does both the new and the old reader a disservice.

For the new reader, as well as the original still relevant material there remains the tedious repetitiousness of Appleton's effort to scientifically prove a simplistic prospect-refuge theory by endlessly applying it to landscape paintings of different eras. For the old reader, familiar with the argument, only the last chapter is relevant. And yet, here was an opportunity to edit, relate and flesh-out the original prospect-refuge and habitat theory in line with his contemporary thinking.

Appleton's objective was and is to formulate a 'unifying theory of environmental aesthetics'. The argument equating 'an inherited basis of behaviour which originally evolved to ensure [our] survival' with landscape preference and experience is apt, but to simultaneously equate it with aesthetics and the beautiful is grossly over-simplistic.

That the original work was valuable in bringing together the thinking of different disciplines to throw new light on an as yet unresolved question, and that it is of importance particularly to the landscape designer, cannot be disputed. In addition, this revision should be particularly relevant to the historian and philosopher, documenting the changing formulation of anthropological ideas.
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Author:Leviseur, Elsa
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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