Conceptual Evolution of Urban Visual Environment; From Cosmetic Approach Through to Sustainable Approach

Document Type : Original Articles


Department of Urban Design and planning, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University


Semiotically speaking, the visual environments of cities manifest the societies' socio- cultural and economic values through an intricate system of 'signs'. Acting as an "interface" between man and environment, the visual settings of cities set the ground for environmental perception, cognition and evaluation to be made by citizens and visitors alike. The cities blessed with great visual environments enhance the aesthetic experience of their inhabitants, improve the self- image of the concerned communities as well as their image at the national and international level, and foster the cities competitiveness to attract more economic investment and larger number of creative class- people. This article aims to explain the significance of the city visual environment, to provide a typology of different notions of "Cityscape, and to model the evolutionary trajectory of the concept of visual environment. In this study, the "urban visual environment" is discussed as a dynamic concept, complying with the evolving nature of urban design discourse, the sustainable development paradigm and the Green (ecological) aesthetics model. The findings indicate that urban visual environment, as a concept, has been subject to fundamental change and modification in parallel to the sophistication process of urban design discourse as a whole. The article concludes the increasingly decline of "Abstract Environmental Aesthetics" and its associated cosmetic approach and highlights the rise of "Ecological Environmental Aesthetics" and its pertaining sustainable approach towards urban visual environment. The study, ultimately suggests a conceptual model to encompass and represent different notions of urban visual environment spanning from cosmetic/ ornamental position right through to ecologically sustainable stand.