On aesthetically appreciating human environments

Philosophy and Geography 4 (1):9 – 24 (2001)
Abstract
In this essay I attempt to move the aesthetics of human environments away from what I call the designer landscape approach. This approach to appreciating human environments involves a cluster of ideas and assumptions such as: that human environments are usefully construed as being in general ''deliberately designed'' and worthy of aesthetic consideration only in so far as they are so designed, that human environments are in this way importantly similar to works of art, and that the aesthetics of human environments thus has much in common with the aesthetics of art. As an alternative to the designer landscape approach, I suggest that the aesthetics of human environments should be understood as a major area of the aesthetics of everyday life. To facilitate this shift I develop the idea of an ecological approach to the aesthetics of human environments and the related notion of functional fit. The ecological approach employs an analogy with natural ecosystems and, by stressing the role of functional fit in each, facilitates the appreciation of both natural and human environments in a way that I characterize as ''looking as they should.'' The upshot, I maintain, is a set of appreciative consequences constituting a more satisfying aesthetic experience of our everyday human environments.
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