Study of Users Preferences Based on Visual Quality Evaluation: The Case of Zahedan Mellat Urban Forest Park

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Lecturer, Department of Landscape Design Engineering, University of Sistan & Balouchestan, Zahedan, Iran

2 Assist. Prof., Department of Environmental Design Engineering, University of Tehran


Due to increase of urbanization and population growth, which cause noticeable changes in the ecological
structure of cities, creation of green spaces such as urban forest parks is essential as modulators of urban
environment. Urban forest parks are natural or manmade parks that are located within or adjacent to cities and
play an important role in ensuring stability of biodiversity. These parks can also provide environmental,
conservational and educational functions as well as being used for leisure times.
In the recent years, physical development of urban areas of Zahedan and the vital need of citizens for
recreational spaces caused this forest park to be a popular and suitable place for leisure time. In this research,
Zahedan Mellat forest park was selected top rovide reasonable suggestions and strategies by using quality sort
method and visual evaluation approach. This is to develop anedx tend visual qualities for thesite and also
identify landscapes with unique characters.
Descriptive – analytical method and site survey was used for this study. First, the required information was
collected through reviewing library resources, articles and internet and then to better understands the case study
and makes site zonation. The site survey was fulfilled by using maps and aerial photos. Parts with more
similarity in usage, space and activities are considered in one zone. By this, the area is divided into 2 zones as
recreational (zone 1) and auxiliary (zone 2).
The quality sort method (Q-method) is used in this research. Q method is a way of extracting and describing
subjective viewpoints. It assumes that subjectivity is structured and it combines qualitative and quantitative
analyses to provide a systematic and rigorous means for objectively describing human subjectivity. This method
allows respondents to model their viewpoints in response to a sample set of stimuli, which can be statements or
The objective of Q method is to systematically describe and compare viewpoints among persons, not to
determine the distribution of viewpoints within a population. Q-method has been applied in many disciplines
such as political sciences, marketing, psychology, sociology, public policy, marketing, landscape and health
The potential role of Q method in landscape research was recognized early, but has not received only much
attention subsequently. Q method use photographs as a technique to assess scenic values. Subsequent studies
have extended the investigation to assess users' perceptions and classifications of landscape character and also
make cross cultural comparisons on the perceptions of scenic and heritage landscapes.
Through this method, 75 photographs were taken in each of the defined zone. All photos were taken from the
study site in May 2011 using a digital camera with 50mm wide angle lens. After omitting photos without
preferable visual quality or similarity in ways, finally 16 images (8 photos of each zone) were selected for
evaluation. Interviewing users were fulfilled on the busiest day of the week (Friday) between 4 until 8 pm.
Photos were numbered from 1 to 16 and 100 users were asked to sort them into 5 separate groups labeled very
beautiful, beautiful, normal, ugly and very ugly. Afterwards, the number of each photo was selected by different
users and their opinions were written down. Selection of users was random.
Also users’ age and sex were monotonously distributed. Finally, each photo was evaluated numerically (very 
beautiful +2, beautiful +1, normal 0 , ugly -1 ,very ugly -2) and the results were analyzed and shown in separate
tables and charts. In order to compute achieved points for each photo, the formula below is used:
i 1
N n (3 i)
􀀠􀂦 􀀐
N= Total points for each photo
n1 =Number of users who choose very beautiful quality photo
n2 = Number of users who choose beautiful quality photo
n3 = Number of users who choose normal quality photo
n4 = Number of users who choose ugly quality photo
n5 = Number of users who choose very ugly quality photo
Finally, the average score of each photo were taken on the chart. Score of each photo indicates the
desirability and quality of the landscape.
Discussion and conclusion
After site survey and interviewing 100 users, collected data was analyzed. Among 100 users, 40 percents were
male and 60 percents were female which 6% were less than 18 years old, 78% between 18 to 34, 14% between
34 to 59, and 2% were older than 59 years old. In total, 12 criteria (6 criteria expresses beauty while the other 6
reflects non-beauty) were driven from users opinions in order to determine the desirability of landscape with the
greatest influence on visual quality evaluation.
Results show that criteria such as presence of mountains and hills, vegetation density and open views to the
surrounding landscape were considered as the top 3 most important criteria effective in landscape visual quality
increase. While, criteria such as the presence of built human elements, visual disturbance in space and lack of
diversity in plant species were extracted as the most effective criteria in landscape visual quality abatement.
Also, photo number 4 taken in the first zone with the highest average point and criteria such as vegetation
density was selected as the most beautiful photo while photo number 16 belonging to the second zone with the
lowest average point and criteria such as vast presence of human built elements was selected by the users as the
least beautiful photo among other photos. The first zone in comparison with the second one earned the highest
average point and is qualified as the best zone with the highest visual quality.
Overall in this study, the visual quality sort method was used in order to evaluate the landscape
characteristics of Mellat Forest Park. Having considered all the achieved data, these results were extracted:
1. Criteria such as the presence of natural elements like mountains and hills (30 %), dense vegetation and
shading (21%) and open view to the surroundings (18%) are considered as the main factors enhancing the visual
quality of Mellat Forest Park landscape andc riteria such as the presence of m an-made elements (27%), visual
disturbance (20%), lack of diversity in plants specieasn d lack of vegetation (19%) are the m ajor factors in
landscape visual quality abatement selected by users.
2. The results of this study indicate that recreational zone with total average score of 0/1212 is the finest zone
and auxiliary zone with total average scoreo f 0/0575 is rated as the other zone with the highest visual quality
3. In general, a desirable landscape from user's viewpoint is formed of dense vegetation, natural elements,
bright, dark and shadowy spaces and appropriate color combinations, which can provide a good memory or a
good sense of place.
At the end, in order to promote and improve the research, these further researches are suggested:
1. Necessity of providing a comprehensive plan for Zahedan City and considering its impact on Park's
development prospects
2. Study and research to assign the appropriate use to the natural - cultural fields of this Park
3. Quality promotion and improvement based on users needs, environmental standards and aesthetic factors.
4. Considering planting design principals and selection of suitable vegetation compatible to the regions


Main Subjects