Wholes can contain sub-gestalts, these being dominated in turn by the qualities of the whole. Interestingly the Kreitlers note that a powerful Gestalt, whether it be an idea, or a way of thought can be very difficult to change:. It could be argued that this may be extending the significance of Gestalts too far, although it is an interesting notion. An example of its possible application relevant to landscape is the ethos that prevailed among farmers in Australia until fairly recent times that farms had to be free of all weeds or stubble or trees — clean and tidy was the prevailing ethos.
Now the value of stubble retention and farm trees is being recognised for land care, soil protection, soil carbon and biodiversity reasons; a powerful Gestalt is giving way to a new one. Gestalt psychologists believed that rather than passively receiving sensory information, the mind actively organizes the information it receives. A book with pages of text is seen as black type against a white background, not merely black and white shapes competing for attention.
A passage of music is more easily identified than a phrase, and a phrase is more memorable than a note. The mind organizes and reorganizes the parts into a satisfying whole that is different from, not just more than the sum of its parts. The coherent whole has characteristics not apparent in its parts, and its parts have properties that they neither possess alone or in another whole.
Through their work, the Gestaltists showed that perception was more than a mechanical process:. Kohler considered that responses are not simply an automatic outcome from stimuli but rather that humans actively interpret and organize the incoming stimuli. Using a range of examples as illustrations — constellations of stars, ornaments, patches of color, flies on a table, leaves and stones on the ground — Kohler showed that:. Not only groups but also continuous sensory wholes may occur in the absence of corresponding physical units.
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According to Arnheim , Gestalt psychologists do not suggest that a Gestalt shows up with automatic spontaneity but rather occurs through repeated exposure to the stimuli. Koffka formulated it thus:. To these characteristics, Katz added unity, harmony, inclusiveness, and conciseness. The uncompleted whole creates a tension or psychological disequilibrium Wolman a , that completion of the whole eases.
In the figure below, few would have trouble completing the letters F and E Figure 3. If we … listen to a jumble of nonsensical syllables we will unfailingly project a rhythmical and melodious pattern into them. When we are asked to repeat them we will reproduce them in a better Gestalt. Thus recollected landscapes are likely to appear better in our memory through the emphasis of factors that make for good Gestalt, and the editing out the factors that distract.
This may explain the pleasure that familiar landscapes give us. More essentially, it means that such behavior is typical for perception: When perception is pure and neutral, uninfluenced by the expectations or needs of the person, the simplest possible structure will prevail. Primitive art comprises mainly good Gestalts: abundance of planes, straight lines, curves, including circles and spirals, symmetry, rhythmic repetition and separate forms. In his book, Primitive Art , the anthropologist, F.
Patterns of complex parts arranged in a rectangular form are easier to grasp as a unified whole than circular or triangular arrangements — this explains why most paintings are rectangular. Photographs are also generally rectangular. The many landscape studies which have used photographs of the area being assessed thus present it to the respondent in a form which facilitates its viewing as a whole, which is entirely unlike its view in situ where it lacks a reference frame.
However, where the parts are fewer or simpler, they are more easily seen as wholes in triangular or circular forms rather than rectangles. Symmetry or balance is an important Gestalt characteristic. Asked to place various forms in a pleasing manner, subjects arranged lines of greater length or narrowness, figures of greater area, and darker colors nearer to the center of a square background than shorter or wider lines, smaller figures, or brighter colors respectively. Subjects also tended to favor depth perception rather than two-dimensional flat pictures, and forms suggesting movement outwards rather than inwards.
Bigger and heavier-looking forms tend to be placed in the lower part of an area to compensate for the relative instability of forms in the upper area. Visual segregation involves the separation of an object from its background, e.
A figure has stronger form-properties, such as coherence, than the ground. The figure-ground phenomenon is not confined to visual perception, as in the well-known cocktail effect when one conversation can be heard over competing conversations. It is also asserted to apply to ways of thinking and of personality organization Hochberg, Reversible figures occur where the figure and the ground can be interchanged, e.
Formerly, psychology asserted that only one figure is noticed, and the other goes unnoticed. Gestalt psychology rejects this by asserting that contours have only a single function, or at any rate, one function at a given time Katz, Examining an example of reversible figures establishes an important principle: that shape belongs to the figure, not to the ground.
One sees either a vase or pair of faces. To see a given object, the perceptual field must be organized so that the object is the figure. In Gestalt terms, a figure is indivisible and irreducible. The function that each part of the figure plays is determined by the whole configuration, not by the local characteristics of the part. Koffka establishes several properties of the figure and ground phenomenon:. In Gestalt terms, it refers to the brain preserving the functional relations of symmetry, closeness and adjacency, not the exact sizes and angles of patterns Asch, Arnheim describes the principle of isomorphism as processes that take place in different media being similar in their structural organization.
Isomorphism is significant in two ways Katz, :. Arnheim suggested that a painter representing Cain and Abel would seek to show the different figures as reflecting good and evil, murderer and victim, acceptance and rejection. Isomorphism is this correspondence in structure between meaning and pattern — a correspondence between form and function.
He defines isomorphism as the structural kinship between the stimulus pattern and the expression it conveys. The eye is presented with a pregnant pattern, is attracted to it at once and so is given a stable centre of attention Ehrenzweig, Koffka touched on aesthetics. The class schema determines the characteristics of the class object. Generally, the class schema is unaffected by deviations in class objects.
The class schema forms a sort of framework, or standard, and what does not fit into the framework, or does not conform to the standard, appears as inferior. Using van Gogh as an example, Koffka noted that art critics refused to take van Gogh seriously during his lifetime and thus kept him from selling any pictures.
Yet now his art is appreciated. The art has remained the same; what has changed is the class schema. The contribution of the Impressionists and others subsequently established a schema whereby his work could be assessed. A work of art is not condemned on its own merits but rather, because it does not fit the prevailing schema. Thus class schemas are not immutable in historical terms; whether in painting, architecture, music, poetry and fashion, schemas change and that which was initially rejected can become de rigueur.
The parallel with attitudes towards landscapes is the shift in public taste that sees landscapes formerly rejected or disregarded by the community, elevated to the position of eminence. A significant historical example is the changed attitude towards mountain landscapes in Europe that occurred in the early eighteenth century. The Gestaltists roamed far wider than the areas touched on here. Overall, they have:.
By itself, that is a major contribution…. Similarly, Asch concluded that Gestalt:.
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Its contributions laid the foundations for the modern study of perception; it broke new ground in the investigation of thinking, memory, and learning; it initiated new steps in social psychology. These achievements deeply affected the outlook of psychology, not least so when they provoked opposition. They spurred a sharpening of issues and the revision of alternative positions; there is little work of consequence in psychology that has been wholly untouched by Gestalt ideas.
Following a detailed review of the Gestalt contribution to organization, Hochberg concluded with a somewhat critical conclusion:. The latter comment refers to a finding that different geometric figures did not have significantly different absolute thresholds. A criticism of Gestalt perception theory is that it is largely descriptive but lacks explanatory power.
Bruce concluded:. The frequency with which landscape analysts have referred to the landscape as comprising more than the sum of its parts indicates that the Gestalt concept, whether understood completely or not, has been influential in describing landscape perception. The importance of the whole compared with the parts is perhaps more relevant to landscapes than to any other area of perception. It is not disputed, according to the Gestaltist view, that parts are important but rather that the whole is perceptually dominant. Unfortunately, the scenes used in the analyses are rarely reproduced in the research papers so it is difficult to test this hypothesis.
Arising from the foregoing discussion about Gestalt theory, there are aspects having relevance to landscapes. What a part has to be is determined by its relationship to the whole Wertheimer, A landscape is usually considered to reflect the aggregate impressions of its constituent parts — land forms, land uses, trees, color, textures and so on.
The holism principle turns this on its head and suggests that the parts are a reflection of the whole. The key to understanding this is the Gestalt emphasis on the organization of the whole. As an example, the outward appearance of an automobile comprises panels of various forms e. The individual panels are designed by reference to what the designer seeks to achieve overall.
Similarly, a sculpture or a painting comprises individual elements and segments that lack meaning unless related to the whole. Therefore, for artefacts including automobiles, planes, houses, roads, can openers, and works of art , the whole determines the parts. Indeed, the parts lack meaning apart from the whole which provides them with purpose and form.
Does the same principle apply to landscapes in which a conscious design is not necessarily evident? One would not expect to find tropical vegetation in the Sahara, or sand dunes in the English countryside. Similarly, human artefacts in a landscape such as dwellings, roads, fences, sheds, signs and livestock constitute an expected and an acceptable range. Beyond these, an unexpected artefact may be regarded as alien to the whole and out of keeping with the landscape — e.
In localities of recognized outstanding landscapes where new houses and even commercial developments in towns maintain the character of the area by using traditional materials, colors and forms , a development that disregards these traditions and which introduce new characteristics will be out of character and may be disliked as a consequence. Change within a landscape comprises the introduction of an element that is contrary to the character of the whole, which may differ in scale, color, texture, form or any combination of these and other factors.
There can be, however, a place for radical introductions. In Paris, for example, the Pei — designed pyramid outside the Louvre, the inside-outside Georges Pompidou Centre Figure 7 , and even the Eiffel Tower which was at first despised and later came to be loved by Parisians , are examples of parts which conflict with their contexts wholes but are regarded as having sufficient inherent quality to be accepted.
In general, however, the prevailing landscape character largely determines its constituent parts.
This is not absolute as it would obliterate diversity. But clearly, change must be relatively minor for a landscape to maintain a consistent character. Landscapes do undergo change. For example, areas on the borders of cities or in the commuter range of cities often comprise mixtures of two or more landscape characters.
A rural farming area is gradually replaced by the characteristics of an urban area, but for a period comprises neither and will be unattractive as a result of the mixture of characters. In Gestalt terms, there is an admixture of parts but no clear whole. An aesthetic principle that is often cited in landscape literature is that of unity and variety or harmony and diversity. The principle is that aesthetic quality is dependent on an overall unifying character that contains a sufficient variety to give it interest.
The aesthetic concept of unity and variety and the Gestalt principle of wholes and parts are clearly parallel concepts; they both refer to the same idea. Unity is the Gestalt holism, the prevailing character of the landscape, while variety comprises the parts that provide it with a measure of difference and interest. Generally, parts that are out of character are disliked there can be instances of outstanding changes, however, that redefine the character by virtue of their own qualities.
Before addressing this, the relevance to landscape of good Gestalt and visual segregation is examined. The qualities of good Gestalt are summarized as:. Landscapes containing aspects of the above features will generally be preferred over landscapes without them.
A landscape need not be unpleasant without them; there can be other redeeming features such as color, texture or an outstanding feature to create interest and appeal. Figure 8 Examples of Gestalt principles to New Zealand landscapes. The qualities of good Gestalts are not difficult to detect in landscapes. Scenes of rural landscapes, forest and woodland scenes, mountain landscapes, and coastal scenes are often replete with such qualities.
The author, however, knows of no assessment of a given landscape in Gestalt terms.
Inclusivity, Gestalt Principles, and Plain Language in Document Design
Surprisingly, Gestalt principles are not referred to in the various landscape analyses. Again, no such surveys are known to have addressed this issue. Landscape surveys that are based on recollections of areas are likely to display this characteristic, making the results less objective than a field survey.
Landscapes considered ugly may be due to the presence of asymmetrical features, incoherent forms, a cacophony of forms lacking unity of character, or are possessed of a blandness or sameness of features. In landscapes, the figure — ground phenomenon is constantly apparent with multiple figures trees, rocks, mountains, rivers, features which attract the eye , and multiple grounds many trees, mountains, rock scree and water bodies.
The figure may also comprise the ground in different views; in one scene, a tree is a figure, in another it comprises ground to a view of birds or of clouds. A featureless scene may comprise ground without a strong figure; conversely, an interesting scene may comprise multiple features or figures with or without ground. Building on the concept that the meaning of the figure derives from the whole, it can be hypothesized that the significance of the contribution of a feature to a landscape is determined largely by the ground, its setting or its context, rather than by the feature itself.
A rock of impressive appearance high on a mountain will be far less impressive if located deep in a ravine or gully. The striking quality of a mountain range that is the culmination of a succession of lower ranges is greater than if the range appears in isolation. The lower ranges, being closer to the viewer, provide a scale against which the distant, higher ranges can be judged. The ground provides a measuring rule for the figure, a basis for comparative judgement. Unlike the properties of good Gestalt, which correspond to aesthetic qualities, visual segregation appears to be more relevant in understanding the character of a landscape than in contributing to its visual quality, although this possibility cannot be dismissed.
It was hypothesized that the presence of good Gestalts in a landscape are likely to correlate to visual quality as assessed by viewers. To the extent that good Gestalts contribute to the qualities of the whole, it follows that such properties can relate to aesthetic qualities.
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