Galindo, M.P. and Corraliza, J.A. (2012), p- 292.

Why do you Long for Beautiful Landscapes?

Think of the last landscape that impressed you. Was it an urban landscape or a natural landscape? Remember and think for a minute about the features it contained. Did it have a river, sea, a lake, trees, plants, old buildings, a square, a road, sunlight?

Over the past few months you’ve been separated from that landscape, and from many others that you’ve found similarly inspiring. You’ve felt the need to go back to them or to discover new ones.

But have you ever wondered why you long for beautiful landscapes? The reasons that spring to mind might include to disconnect, to refresh your energy, or to enjoy Nature. Those are logical, rational reasons. But what if I tell you that there are also emotional factors that make you yearn for that contact? And those factors are very powerful.

A link exists between psychological wellbeing and environmental aesthetics. In other words, every time you enjoy a beautiful landscape, you’re physically benefitting your mind and body. This may seem trivial, but its origin lies in the deepest depths of human nature. You consider “as ‘beautiful’ those landscapes that include a series of features (in terms of both spatial configuration and specific content) which, in the course of phylogenesis, have proved to be beneficial for the biological survival of our ancestors”. 1

Your mood is directly affected by your surroundings, and that explains why such a long period of lockdown in an urban environment has, in some cases, been so traumatic. Being separated from beautiful scenery leaves its mark on your state of mind. But the relationship between aesthetics and emotions goes deeper still.

Aesthetic appreciation is influenced by our emotions. What we feel in a place determines whether we consider it ugly or beautiful. According to the theory of psychologist Daniel Berlyne, there are two key dimensions: pleasure and arousal (i.e., the level of brain activity). If we perceive a landscape as being serene and comfortable and if that same landscape arouses our senses (high arousal level), we classify it as a beautiful landscape. In contrast, if the place is unsafe, gloomy, dirty and, moreover, boring (low arousal level), we classify it as ugly and unattractive.

Berlyne’s theory has been corroborated in research carried out by psychologists Maria Paz Galindo and José Antonio Corraliza, who conducted a series of surveys with a group of residents of Seville. The participants in the study were asked to evaluate a series of Seville cityscapes in terms of their aesthetic and affective appeal. The result was that those places with features beneficial for human survival stimulated pleasant feelings and were perceived as being beautiful. Vegetation, light, order, and spaciousness caused sensations of tranquillity, security and comfort, and landscapes with these features were evaluated as the most beautiful.

Admittedly, a beautiful landscape isn’t exclusively one which possesses the features and properties needed for survival. You live in a complex, sophisticated, advanced society. It’s not necessary to live in a garden to survive. You may be able to appreciate the beauty of a hostile desert landscape, and even, thanks to technological progress, enjoy the experience of being in one. In fact, you’re in a position to enjoy an aesthetic experience of places that would have been unthinkable for our ancestors. But what does live on is the fact that beauty makes you feel good.

So what kind of landscape do you long for?

Berlyne, D.E. (1960). Conflict, Arousal and Curiosity. New York: McGraw Hill.
Galindo, M.P. and Corraliza, J.A. (2012). “Estética ambiental y bienestar psicológico: algunas relaciones existentes entre los juicios de preferencia por paisajes urbanos y otras respuestas afectivas relevantes” (“Environmental Aesthetics and Psychological Wellbeing: Relationships Between Preference Judgments for Urban Landscapes and Other Relevant Affective Responses”). Apuntes de Psicología, 30(Número especial: 30 años de Apuntes de Psicología), 289-303.

Text translated by Andrew V.Taylor
Notas de página

Galindo, M.P. and Corraliza, J.A. (2012), p- 292.

(Madrid 1980) Doctorando en el departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos en la ETSAM, Master en Proyectos Arquitectónicos Avanzados por la ETSAM, 2013, Arquitecto por la Universidad Alfonso X El Sabio, 2006. Socio fundador de Estudio Perpendicular.

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