Many recent research projects discussed in this book have investigated the benefits of ‘natural’ versus ‘urban’ views, and design projects have touted their ‘biophilic’ design, yet with little discussion of the implications of those terms. However, a visual image of ‘nature,’ along with judgments of pretty versus ugly, are culturally determined concepts, as first explored by the cultural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan. For example, early Taoist (Chinese) and Hindu (Indian) art forms demonstrate contrasting philosophic approaches to landscape aesthetics. Along with ‘nature,’ ‘wilderness,’ and ‘wildness’ are also culturally fraught terms.

European, and subsequently American, landscape aesthetics have also evolved over time, from minimalist medieval sensibilities, through religious metaphors in the Renaissance and the picturesque movement during the Enlightenment, to the most recent interest in blending naturalistic elements into preserved industrial landscapes. Olmstead’s landscape vision has been one of the most influential in defining ‘nature’ for Americans, yet even Olmstead blurred the boundaries between nature and artifice.