Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Painting the Future

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Painting the Future

Article excerpt

Using 'Visual Impact Analysis', Swedish MAB scientists and artists are charting future changes in their country's landscape

TOWARDS the end of 1986, the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament, was the setting for an art exhibition with a difference.

Consisting of a series of attractive watercolour landscapes, the exhibition was designed to bring home to the nation's leaders the visual impact that their decisions could have upon the Swedish landscape.

The watercolours were, however, much more than an artist's personal impression of what might lie ahead. They were the fruit of a serious scientific research project which started in 1978 underthe aegis of the Swedish National MAB Committee and the Committee of Future-oriented Research (both under the Swedish Council for Planning and Co-ordination of Research).

The Swedish landscape has undergone major changes since 1940. Approximately a quarter of all agricultural land has been taken out of production and has reverted naturally to forest or been planted with conifers. Rapid urbanization, road building, the construction of recreational housing and the development of industrial sites along the coast have also contributed to this transformation.

The object of the Swedish MAB study was to develop a method of Visual Impact Analysis and to test it on a number of localities in Sweden, using scenarios produced by others, so that it could be incorporated into the planning and decisionmaking process.

The first step was to select from a number of previously completed future studies dealing with forestry, energy and agriculture those scenarios that were sufficiently detailed to enable their visual impacts to be deduced with reasonable precision.

Four such future studies were deemed to fulfil these conditions: two alternative energy scenarios, "Nuclear Sweden" and "Solar Sweden", presented by a project group of the Secretariat for Future Studies; a "High-Yield Alternative" for Swedish forestry, produced by a government commission on the future of Swedish forestry; and an alternative agricultural scenario produced by the Swedish Agricultural University.

The Visual Impact Analysis method is divided into three basic stages: (a) the analysis of a scenario and its application to a given locality; (b) the integration of information into instructions for the production of pictures; (c) the production and successive modification of a series of visual impact pictures. …

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