Mapping landscape openness with isovists


  • Gerd Weitkamp University of Groningen, Faculty of Spatial Sciences




People identify with landscapes and landscapes contribute to a sense of place and wellbeing.  The landscape is therefore an important contributor to quality of life. New developments, such as urban and infrastructure projects and the expansion of large-scale agriculture, introduce many new elements into traditional landscapes, altering their visual appearance and perceived quality. These changes may have significant influences on people’s quality of life. In order to protect or enhance the visual landscape, changes in the visual landscape should be given explicit attention in landscape planning and policy making. Current improvements of measurement techniques enabled by GIS, and of highly detailed topographic data covering large areas make it feasible to describe the visual landscape with a high degree of realism without making many concessions to generality and objectivity.

The article proposes a  procedure that describes the visual landscape, which takes advantage of improvements in measurement techniques, developments in GIS and availability of high-resolution topographic data. The procedure is developed for policy making and spatial planning purposes, and provides information about one specific aspect of the visual landscape, landscape openness. In the remainder of the article, first the concept of landscape openness is explained, then a method to model landscape openness is proposed. Subsequently, a procedure to use this model for policy making purposes is demonstrated. Finally the results of an evaluation of the procedure with policy makers are discussed.

How to Cite

Weitkamp, G. (2011). Mapping landscape openness with isovists. Research in Urbanism Series, 2, 205–223.



Author Biography

Gerd Weitkamp, University of Groningen, Faculty of Spatial Sciences

Assistant professor of Cultural Geography at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen (the Netherlands). He conducted his PhD research at the Centre for Geo-Information, Wageningen University on the development of a GIS based procedure to assess landscape openness. His research interests include landscape planning, landscape perception, and public participation GIS. Currently he is coordinator of the Honours education programme.


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