IGU Urban Commission, Tel Aviv, 2010
Eliahu STERN, Orly RECHTMAN
Department of Geography and Environmental Development, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
Visual discrimination of urban historic landscapes
Subjective discrimination of historic landscapes is rarely studied by geographers. The need to deepen into the perceptual and visual aspects of the urban historic landscape has recently increased due to the growing interest of preserving historical structures and elements within the current, dynamic, urban areas. For example, the 2009 conference of UNESCO Forum – University and Heritage, dealt solely with the conservation and function of urban historic landscapes in both western and non-western countries. Assuming that the individuals' ability to identify urban historic landscapes within the modern urban structure is the first step in defining a preservation policy and means, the present study examines the subjective visual discrimination of such urban fabrics. More specifically, what are the visual attributes that determine the perceived level of historicity, and what are the effects of familiarity and ratio of contemporary development on the individuals' perception. Subjective evaluations of historicity were solicited from 90 geography students in a laboratory - type experiment. Each participant evaluated the level of historicity of nine historic urban landscapes based on photographs from Israel and Europe. Their task also involved discrimination of visual attributes and subjective landscape preferences. The main contributing attributes to the level of historicity were architectural style, visual landmarks, buildings density, and the perceived contrast between old and modern buildings. Familiarity and preliminary knowledge were found irrelevant to the perception of historicity. The subjective preferences to urban historic landscapes were found to be affected mainly by salient historic elements (e.g. city walls, towers, domes), and the visual absence of modern structures. Finally, the paper contributes to the integration of visual perceptions in shaping conservation policies of urban historic landscapes.