From viewsheds to viewscapes: Trends in landscape visibility and visual quality research


The study of visibility and visual quality (VVQ) spans scientific disciplines, methods, frameworks and eras. Recent advances in line-of-sight computation and geographic information systems (GIS) have propelled VVQ research into the realm of high performance computing via a cache of geospatial tools accessible to a broad range of research disciplines. However, in the disciplines that use VVQ analysis most (archaeology, architecture, geosciences and planning), methods and terminology can vary markedly, which may encumber interdisciplinary progress. A multidisciplinary systematic review of past VVQ research is timely to assess past efforts and effec-tively advance the field. In this study, we summarize the state of VVQ research in a systematic review of peer- reviewed publications spanning the past two decades. Our search yielded 528 total studies, 176 of which we reviewed in depth. VVQ analysis in peer-reviewed research increased 21-fold in the last 20 years, applied pri-marily in archaeology and natural resources research. We found that methods, tools and study designs varied across disciplines and scales. Research disproportionately represented the Global North and primarily employed medium resolution bare-earth elevation models, despite their known limitations. We propose a framework for standardized reporting of methods that emphasizes cross-disciplinary collaboration to propel visibility research into the future.

  • Citation: Inglis, Nicole C.; Vukomanovic, Jelena; Costanza, Jennifer; Singh, Kunwar K. 2022. From viewsheds to viewscapes: Trends in landscape visibility and visual quality research. Landscape and Urban Planning. 224(3): 104424-.
  • Keywords: GIS, landscape aesthetics, landscape visibility, line-of-sight, visual assessment
  • Posted Date: April 12, 2022
  • Modified Date: November 7, 2022
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.