Landscape associates people and place. Danish landskab, German landshaft, Dutch landschap, and Old English landscipe combine two roots. “Land” means both a place and the people living there. Skabe and schaffen mean “to shape”; suffixes -skab and -schaft as in the English “-ship,” also mean association, partnership. Though no longer used in ordinary speech, the Dutch schappen conveys a magisterial sense of shaping, as in the biblical Creation.
While Cosgrove notes that ‘landscapes have a special significance within heritage debates’, he also argues that it is heritage which forces an engagement with the ‘realities of a postcolonial, polyvocal and globalized world’. While a ‘landscape approach’ has aided heritage scholars to move beyond what was a site-based engagement with their subject matter, therefore, an increased recognition of heritage – both tangible and intangible – has encouraged landscape scholars to heed the importance of the affective qualities of how, as Holtorf and Williams note, memories and mythologies, community and personal histories were ‘inherited, inhabited, invented and imagined through the landscape’. With its focus on the present and future, I would argue that a heritage sensibility would appear to provide a sense of hope and engagement.
The place can be described as an astonishing and complex geological structure. The tectonic gesture of the place is made visible by the sea eroded cliffs and its several lava and ashes layers of orange, black, brown and grey. An old conical lime kiln characterizes the image of the place. An artisanal industry of drying fish and salt extraction completed the principal local economic activity of fishing, more recently developed on touristic service. This social condition of very humble and poor economic situation was accentuated by a strong feeling of isolation and segregation shared by this community. The recent regional connection and several investments on public services, inverted a process of social erosion and conflict, stressed by a previous wrong policy on social housing. By adding the new and complex program of public space and connections, an extraordinary change took place on social and collective representation and valuation of space.
‘The cartography of Europe arose from the possibilities, the observed horizons of human feet’, wrote George Steiner in his beautiful essay The Idea of Europe (2004). The three young landscape architects that started a new office together after their studies at Wageningen University have followed the tradition of manipulating landscapes for human life, but do so in a very different way. For their generation nature and landscape have become complex, especially in the densely populated Netherlands. ln this field the challenges range from the realization of Main Ecological Structures to the integration of ever expanding business parks. It is about the cultural landscape, the loss of biodiversity and the meaning of exotic species. The designand regeneration of (metropolitan) parks is high on any municipal agenda, just like the design of wind farms, or the excessive growth of a tourist infrastructure that replaces agricultural production through consumption of the landscape.
All these claims, which also imply change, hardly fit with the Arcadian and Eden-like nature and landscape ideals that still control our thoughts: above all, landscape should be beautiful. But thus desired harmony conflicts with the news items newspapers present us: Q fever in goats that results in their destruction alongside the ‘hugability’ of the national pet show. We read about Chimpanzee meat at local African markets and participate in discussions about the bio-industry and pig flats. Some plea for a more responsible approach to food consumption and for the role landscape and energy play in this, especially in the city, close to home. Public debates reveal a deep schism between the differing views and practices with regard to concepts such as wilderness and natural process. The same applies to the concepts of city as landscape, as nature. Scientists’ research on the world of nature also betrays cultural preferences: large mammals are by far favoured in science, while insects and micro-organisms (the largest in number on our planet) are the least popular. Jeff Corwin and Dave Salmoni’s nature programs on Animal Planet project illusions and expectations about nature and its accessibility. In the epoch of the Anthropocene we are able to make anything, do everything or not do anything.
Have all of us in this highly urbanized world become ‘outsiders’ who have an estranged relationship with nature and landscape, or show an ambiguous attitude? Have landscapes and nature become products for consumption and projection, or is it still possible to get to know their inner being’? Our gaze is rooted in the discovery of the linear perspective and relies on idealization in literature, films or postcards. By means of our gaze, the landscape has turned into a measurable spatial unit that can be experienced but also contaminated or destroyed. All of these phenomena in our world are signs that, to us, the landscape is ambiguous. Although as urbanites we do not want to bean integral part of the landscape, we still wish to maintain an uninterrupted relationship with this very same landscape that determines our individual and common identity. We prefer denying any human interference and we commit ourselves to true nature and wilderness, which we do, however, have to make and manage. Developments continue to take place in the linear progress of time, but the need for inner time, of space and silence, is growing.
For him, aesthetic judgments about the landscape were secondary. Primary was the question of why the landscape looked the way it did. What clues did the landscape itself present as to its own making?
To answer that question, [Peirce] Lewis suggested seven axioms:
● Landscape is a clue to culture. It “provides strong evidence of the kind of people we are, and were, and are in the process of becoming”. By reading the landscape we could glean important insights into “who we are.” As a corollary, Lewis argued, if landscapes looked different, it was because there were significantly different cultures at work. If they were growing more similar, it was because cultures were growing more similar. Moreover, both the diffusion of landscape items across space and local cultural “tastes” were central in giving landscape its particular look and feel.
● Nearly every item in the landscape “reflect[s] culture in some way”. We need to pay attention even to what at first glance might seem commonplace, trivial, or just plain haphazard and ugly. At the same time we need to make judgments about when an item really just is the idiosyncratic whim of an indi- vidual and thus truly is unique.
● Landscapes are difficult to study “by conventional academic means”. Rather, scholars need to turn to “nonacademic literature” (like trade journals, journalism, promotional literature, and advertisements). Most of all we need to train ourselves to “learn by looking”: we need to train ourselves to pay attention to the visual evidence. (Lewis gives little idea of what constitutes “conventional academic means” but the sense is that it is limited to reading scholarly books).
● History matters to the structure and look of a landscape. We inherit a landscape which forms the basis for any changes or developments we subsequently make. Change itself is uneven (historically “lumpy”). Both technological and cultural change comes in great leaps forward, perhaps more so than as gradual evolution.
● Location matters too: “Elements of a cultural landscape make little cultural sense if they are studied outside their geographic (i.e., locational) context.” Indeed, “to a large degree cultures dictate that certain activities should occur in certain places, and only those places”. Thus “context matters”.
● So does physical environment, since “conquering geography’ is often a very expensive business.” Physical geography may not determine, but it does establish the limits of possibility and the costs of exceeding those limits.
● Finally, while all items in the landscape convey meaning, they do not do so readily: meaning can be obscure. Even so “chances are” any disagreement over meaning “can be cleared up by visual evidence”.
Who benefits from landscape architecture? To move beyond the simple, aspirational answer – everyone – raises further questions. Who do we think the beneficiaries ought to be, and what is their place in the texture of society as a whole? Planning and designing our future landscapes takes place in a cultural context, and culture is not monolithic. So whose culture, whose landscapes, are we conserving, enhancing or developing anew?
The challenge in these terms reflects the condition of the western world as we enter a new millennium. Do we properly recognise the value of cultural landscapes, should we make explicit the cultural assumptions implicit in the way we manage landscapes, and how do we weigh the importance of developing new cultural expressions against that of conserving the old?
Is the Natur-Park Südgelände a good example of a successful integration of urban wilderness into the open-space system of a metropolis? What speaks in its favor is the simple fact that this kind of nature development has indeed been successfully safeguarded despite substantial competition for use in the reunited German capital. The contrast between dynamic nature and the remnants of the railway industry heritage is fascinating to all visitors. Unfettered wilderness development is always taking place in parts of the Südgelände. Through the spatially differentiated maintenance plan, the earlier and middle stages of nature development are maintained and thereby the diversified vegetation complexes are maintained in the long term. The species targeted for nature conservation profit as well from the maintenance measures. The public acceptance of the nature park is extremely high.
The original railway wilderness has, however, clearly been affected by design interventions in the form of the new path system, the maintenance and the art objects. Has this destroyed the original uniqueness, the “wilderness” of the Südgelände? Certainly the character of the site has changed. The few who earlier had discovered the Südgelände on their own recognize the contrast very clearly. To wake Sleeping Beauty, however, also means to open the urban wilderness to a multitude of visitors who did not have an inherent sympathy for the nature of urban abandoned areas. That such access, even designed access, satisfies a need for wilderness has been shown in studies such as the one by Bauer.
Odious, Natur Park Schoeneberg Sudgelande (2009)
Landscape in the West was itself a symptom of modern loss, a cultural form that emerged only after humanity’s primal relationship to nature had been disrupted by urbanism, commerce and technology. For when mankind still “belonged” to nature in a simple way, nobody needed to paint a landscape.
Meindert Hobbema, The Avenue at Middelharnis (1689)
The best place to visit Holland is Japan. Holland Village, in the outskirts of Nagasaki is a condensed scaled down version of the real thing. Or may be it is the other way round and Holland Village in Japan is actually the original that makes its European counterpart nothing more than an oversized, inflated and (quite literally) watered down version lacking the purity and essence of its prototype. (…)
The notion of the actual creation of land is the essence of Dutch Landscape architecture. Whilst in the Anglo Saxon world Landscape is first an foremost a visual representation and a mental construct wrapped into a wet blanket of subjectivity, for the Dutch landscape is about the phisical and rational manipulation of an objectified reality. The Dutch Landscape is an efficient livework unit while the British landscape architects can design gardens and cannot design landscapes while exactly the opposite holds true for their Dutch colleagues.
Holland Village, Nagasaki (1983)
In the colorful reality of life there is a continuous resistance of fact to confinement within any “simpliste” theory. We are concerned with “directed activity, not premature realization” and this is the morphological approach. Our naïvely selected section of reality, the landscape, is undergoing manifold change. This contact of man with his changeful home, as expressed through the cultural landscape, is our field of work. We are concerned with the importance of the site to man, and also with his transformation of the site. Altogether we deal with the interrelation of group, or cultures, and site, as expressed in the various landscapes of the world. Here are an inexhaustible body of fact and a variety of relation which provide a course of inquiry that does not need to restrict itself to the straits of rationalism.
UNESCO, Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras Cultural Landscape Inscription (1995)
UNESCO, Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape Inscription (2003)
UNESCO, Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila Cultural Landscape Inscription (2006)
UNESCO, Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain Cultural Landscape Inscription (2009)
UNESCO, Colombia Coffee Cultural Landscape Inscription (2011)
Header: UNESCO, Tongariro National Park Cultural Landscape Inscription (1993)