Against a background of increasing urban regeneration and population growth, the delivery of urban open spaces that fulfill the needs of city inhabitants is of critical significance. Evaluation of whether current and future landscape architects are succeeding in creating effective and engaging spaces for people to occupy and use is therefore essential.

Study 1 - Evaluating the conflict in the visual perception of detail within professionally designed urban landscapes between landscape architects and the general public.

Landscape architects believe they have a strong understanding of what the people they design for experience within the built detail of urban landscapes. Such details include the ground plane, e.g. paving, level changes and drainage, through to street furniture and building facades at eye level. However, recent evidence suggests disparity between what the general public observes, and attach importance to, and what designers assume they do. It is argued that this results from insufficient psychological and sociological awareness in mainstream landscape practice.

Study 2 - Has the design education system created a change in perception of detail within urban landscapes?

This research will examine how the tertiary education system changes the visual perception of detail. The degree to which a designer’s eye for detail is created through the university system can be determined and to what level it has contributed to any imbalance in perception between designers and the public. It is understood that a specialised process is developed which is disconnected with the authenticity of routine urban open space experience. The focus on professional education in this study addresses a lack of research to date focused on the educational implications of this.

Methodology: Taking an inter-disciplinary approach, co-supervised by Dr. Thwaites (Landscape) and Dr. Freeth (Psychology), both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to analyse the responses of trained landscape architects, landscape students from various academic stages, and members of the general public to UK-based professionally designed urban spaces. Using eye tracking equipment combined with participant led walks and semi–structured interviews, empirical foundations from which to determine the extent and nature of imbalance between the various groups can be found.

Research Impact: It is envisaged that this study will influence the university landscape architecture education process by formulating recommendations on how to develop students’ detailed design skills, so to resolve any conflict in perception found. In doing so, graduate landscape architects should leave university better equipped to create successful urban environments in tune with the needs of the general public.

By determining what the general public value within urban environments, the professional planning, design and construction processes can be adapted to reflect these values, thus improving its efficiency and effectiveness. The findings may also influence the guidelines and policies of design and planning bodies, at regional and national levels, ensuring that future urban environments are designed with the public’s values and perceptions accounted for.