Landscape policy and visual landscape assessment

The Province of Noord-Holland as a case study


  • Steffen Nijhuis TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Miranda Reitsma Province of Noord-Holland




Spatial quality is a key element in landscape policy of the province of Noord-Holland in the Netherlands. Visual attributes such as spaciousness, openness, and landscape enclosure are considered as constituent elements of spatial quality and play a crucial role in comprehending and defining landscape identity. This article introduces a landscape planning and design oriented approach towards landscape physiognomic issues in order to describe, protect and develop the visual landscape. Expert knowledge and advanced spatial research methods and techniques are combined in a landscape physiognomic framework for landscape policy, planning and design. This framework is recently employed by the provincial authority and is adopted in the Structural Concept of Noord-Holland 2040.

In the presented approach the application of the visual attributes through GIS resulted in an integral landscape physiognomic framework for spatial planning and design. This framework addresses three different scales of physiognomic research: scale of the province, scale of the landscape unit, and scale of the observer. Grid-based and viewshed-based methods are employed in order to comprehend and connect these conceptual and perceptual spaces. This planning and design oriented approach offered the provincial authority a framework for managing and monitoring the visual landscape and is recently adopted in the structural concept of Noord-Holland. The article addresses the theoretical, methodological and technical foundations, as well as its implication for landscape policy of the provincial authority.

How to Cite

Nijhuis, S., & Reitsma, M. (2011). Landscape policy and visual landscape assessment: The Province of Noord-Holland as a case study. Research in Urbanism Series, 2, 229–259.



Author Biographies

Steffen Nijhuis, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Assistant professor of Landscape Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands). Initiator of this book. His PhD-research, entitled Landscape Architecture and GIS, focuses on the application of Geographic Information Science in landscape architectonic research and design. The core of his work deals with theories, methods and techniques in the field of landscape architecture and urban design: design research, research by design, visual landscape assessment and visual knowledge representation. He is leader of the research programme Architecture and Landscape, series editor of RiUS and advisor to governmental and regional authorities in the Netherlands.

Miranda Reitsma, Province of Noord-Holland

Provincial Advisor on Spatial Quality Noord-Holland (the Netherlands) and principal of Reitsma Stedebouw, an offi ce for urban planning and design. As Provincial Advisor she has recently presented her research in a seminar she organized on change in rural landscapes, due to agricultural innovations, water management and new ‘energy landscapes’, in areas with a declining population. As former Head of Urban Planning at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture she still teaches at the University of Amsterdam and at the Academy. She is a member of several advisory boards on spatial quality.


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