Visual Gaps in the Landscape

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Urszula Forczek-Brataniec


The surrounding landscape is not identical to the space that we see. The space we see is just a fragment of the scene conditioned by place, topography, the body and awareness of the spectator. In landscape design, the seen space is the main design subject, but visual gaps, the areas that remain invisible, are also important. Their size, range, and type are valuable research and design areas in landscaping, and the measure of the landscape’s condition and an element of its creation. The selected case studies illustrate how the conscious creation of invisible areas can be a condition for the proper creation of the seen space. The invisible space is connected to the concept of ‘visual absorption capability’ (VAC). However, absorbency is understood as the ability to absorb forms introduced by human beings without a depreciation of the landscape values, the visual gap includes the negative, out-of-control situations. The visual gaps in this concept are identical to visually omitted spaces; the areas that could be seen but which remain invisible due to disadvantageous conditions.

This analysis of visual gaps deals with the visual exposition from roads. The results of research prepared for an existing road and a proposed road were used. The first case involves the planning scale problem of an area with large open spaces that have high environmental value. The second case represents the urban scale of the outskirts of a small town near a UNESCO world heritage site. In both cases, the methodology developed by the Cracow Landscape Architecture School was used. The methodology is based on the geometrical analysis of the terrain that allows the borders of the view range and invisible areas to be precisely defined. Monitoring of the invisible areas in case of the proposed road allowed for successive stages of the design to emerge in order to decide which parts of the town will be visible and to avoid undesired visual gaps. In case of the existing road, an analysis was made to upgrade the visual values by restoring the most beautiful panoramas and insights in the natural and cultural landscape, and by correcting the visual gaps. The results of the analysis proved the utility of the invisible areas research in the context of both: the visual absorption capability and the danger of visual gaps enclosing valuable elements that can build road space composition.

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