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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Perceived sensory dimensions: An evidence-based approach to greenspace aesthetics

Stoltz, Jonathan; Grahn, Patrik


Green spaces and infrastructures offer multiple ways to tackle challenges associated with increased urbanisation and densification. Greenspace aesthetics have long been pointed out as an important aspect to support human health and wellbeing. There is however a need for evidence-based approaches in order to aid practitioners, such as, e.g. landscape architects and urban planners/designers, to best meet people’s needs. Here we summarize a comprehensive study, conducted since the early 1980s, with the intention to identify the most important perceived qualities of urban green spaces. We compile evidence collected between 1984 and 2018 suggesting eight key qualities, or perceived sensory dimensions, as particularly important to support people’s needs. A summary interpretation of our collected evidence suggests that they can be related to each other in a model with four axes of opposing qualities, 1) a Natural – Cultural axis, 2) a Cohesive – Diverse axis, 3) a Sheltered – Open axis, and 4) a Serene – Social axis. Synergies and tensions between qualities are suggested based on their relations in the model, as well as some possible implications for greenspace planning and design. In general, simultaneous support for three closely related qualities is suggested as a simple heuristic for strong aesthetic function. We believe our model to account for equally important but complementary aesthetic needs that people seek support for in their close-by outdoor environment. As such, it could aid the inclusion of an evidence-based perspective on greenspace aesthetics in various design and planning practises, as well as in trans- and interdisciplinary research settings.


green infrastructures; health & wellbeing; planning & design

Published in

Urban Forestry and Urban Greening
2021, Volume: 59, article number: 126989

      SLU Authors

    • Associated SLU-program

      Built environment

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
      Landscape Architecture

      Publication identifier


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