The unfinished landscape fractal geometry and the aesthetics of ecological design

Perry, Stephen George (2012) The unfinished landscape fractal geometry and the aesthetics of ecological design. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


During the late 20th century it was proposed that a design aesthetic reflecting current ecological concerns was required within the overall domain of the built environment and specifically within landscape design. To address this, some authors suggested various theoretical frameworks upon which such an aesthetic could be based. Within these frameworks there was an underlying theme that the patterns and processes of Nature may have the potential to form this aesthetic — an aesthetic based on fractal rather than Euclidean geometry. In order to understand how fractal geometry, described as the geometry of Nature, could become the referent for a design aesthetic, this research examines the mathematical concepts of fractal Geometry, and the underlying philosophical concepts behind the terms ‘Nature’ and ‘aesthetics’. The findings of this initial research meant that a new definition of Nature was required in order to overcome the barrier presented by the western philosophical Nature¯culture duality. This new definition of Nature is based on the type and use of energy. Similarly, it became clear that current usage of the term aesthetics has more in common with the term ‘style’ than with its correct philosophical meaning. The aesthetic philosophy of both art and the environment recognises different aesthetic criteria related to either the subject or the object, such as: aesthetic experience; aesthetic attitude; aesthetic value; aesthetic object; and aesthetic properties. Given these criteria, and the fact that the concept of aesthetics is still an active and ongoing philosophical discussion, this work focuses on the criteria of aesthetic properties and the aesthetic experience or response they engender. The examination of fractal geometry revealed that it is a geometry based on scale rather than on the location of a point within a three-dimensional space. This enables fractal geometry to describe the complex forms and patterns created through the processes of Wild Nature. Although fractal geometry has been used to analyse the patterns of built environments from a plan perspective, it became clear from the initial review of the literature that there was a total knowledge vacuum about the fractal properties of environments experienced every day by people as they move through them. To overcome this, 21 different landscapes that ranged from highly developed city centres to relatively untouched landscapes of Wild Nature have been analysed. Although this work shows that the fractal dimension can be used to differentiate between overall landscape forms, it also shows that by itself it cannot differentiate between all images analysed. To overcome this two further parameters based on the underlying structural geometry embedded within the landscape are discussed. These parameters are the Power Spectrum Median Amplitude and the Level of Isotropy within the Fourier Power Spectrum. Based on the detailed analysis of these parameters a greater understanding of the structural properties of landscapes has been gained. With this understanding, this research has moved the field of landscape design a step close to being able to articulate a new aesthetic for ecological design.

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ID Code: 50512
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Sim, Jean & Banks, Jasmine
Keywords: fractal geometry, landscape architecture, ecological design, aesthetics, nature
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Past > Schools > School of Design
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 May 2012 01:44
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:26

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