This article traces the development and expansion of early computer systems for analyzing views at three state-owned agencies in the United States and Great Britain: the US Forest Service, the Central Electricity Generating Board of England and Wales, and the Greater London Authority. Following the technology over four decades, from 1968 to 2012, the article traces assumptions incorporated into initial programs and propagated through to the present. These programs were designed to address questions about visual environments and proximities by numerical calculations alone, without the need for field observations. Each historical episode provides unique insights into the role of abstraction and calculation in the production of landscapes and the built environment, and shows how computer-generated view data became an important currency in planning control, not primarily for aesthetic but for financial and political reasons.
- view analysis
- urban planning