‘Go softly through nature please’: Assessing four paradigms of naturalized park design.
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This study compared four prominent landscape design paradigms in a naturalized park landscape setting. The landscape designs included, natural state, visible stewardship, people places and physical accessibility. The selected landscape variables included preference, naturalness, accessibility and use. Three distinct participant groups were selected and can be categorized as, ‘environmental or ecology’, ‘civically engaged around parks’ and ‘accessibility concerns in the public landscape’. The objective was to identify best practices in naturalized park design and to further existing academic research in the areas of landscape perception and preference. Three landscape types including open, riparian, and enclosed path were selected. The principles of the four design paradigms were applied. The methodology included the use of computer visualizations to provide for a common backdrop for the design implementations. Rating exercises as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews were completed. This research not only sought to determine what was preferred, but why it was preferred. The findings indicate that landscapes that are perceived as natural and designed to limit human influence and respect contextual ‘fit’ were most preferred. The research also uncovered a potential cognitive aspect of perceived accessibility in the landscape. The research findings highlight the depth of connection to naturalized park landscapes among all participants and a higher degree of similarity than expected in terms of expectations and wants among the participant groups.