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Home HortTechnology Study Defines Elements of Restorative Landscapes
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SELANGOR, MALAYSIA—What makes a place restorative? Researchers are hard at work to define the parameters. Mahdieh Abkar of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Universiti Putra Malaysia led a study to measure the relationship between Perceived Restorative Potential (PRP) and preference. The results were published in HortTechnology.

The researchers explained that the Attention Restoration Theory (ART) states that the best environmental fit for an individual is one in which there are fewer demands on attention and more opportunities for restoration. ART suggests that restorative environments have the following components: "being away", or one's ability to escape distraction and routine; "fascination", defined as "being effortlessly drawn in"; "extent", or "coherence", meaning engagement and exploration; and "compatibility", defined as the fulfillment of desire or purpose.

Restorative settings, according to the study, clear the mind, promote reflection on life's larger questions, and ease the fatigue of intense attention—the defining elements of PRP. Previous studies have focused on the PRP of natural environments or natural environments in urban settings, and some have indicated a correlation between PRP and "preference" or how much a subject likes a setting.

For Abkar's experiment, 120 undergraduate students (43 males and 77 females) between the ages of 19 and 25 were shown 12 slides from two categories. "Urban built" slides depicted scenes of office buildings, shopping centers, and high rises with little vegetation. "Urban natural" slides showed more trees, plants, and water. The students were asked to rate each scene based on the Perceived Restorativeness Scale, the perceived restorative potential, and preference.

The study found a moderate correlation between PRP and preference between urban built and urban natural landscapes. "Compatibility," "being away," and "fascination" were the best significant predictors of PRP in both landscapes. "The majority of research on restorative environments focused on built vs. natural scene types," Abkar explained. "However, our study investigated the relationship between "preference" and PRP in terms of their relationship with the restorative components of one type of environment (urban landscapes). Knowledge about the distinctiveness of the two constructs (preference and PRP) can be used as a guide in designing and planning landscapes that people like (parks and gardens) and also landscapes that contribute to the recovery of mental fatigue (such as hospitals and healing gardens)."

While this type of research could be helpful for designers and landscape architects, the researchers recommend further research using a more diversified pool of participants. They added that it is important to note that PRP is not the same as actual restoration and does not reflect increased performance when attention is tested.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site:

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Original article:

Relationship between the Preference and Perceived Restorative Potential of Urban Landscapes
Mahdieh Abkar, Mustafa Kamal, Suhardi Maulan, Manohar Mariapan, and Seyed Rasoul Davoodi
HortTechnology 21:514–519. [Abstract][Full Text][PDF]

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