The language of landscape is our native landscape. Landscape was the original dwelling; humans evolved among plants and animals, under the sky, upon the earth, near water. Everyone carries that legacy in body and mind. Humans touched, saw, heard, smelled, tasted lived in, and shaped landscapes before the species had words to describe what it did, Landscapes were the firsts human texts, read before the invention of other signs and symbols. Clouds, wind, and sun were clues to weather, ripples and eddies signs of rocks and life under water, caves and ledges promise of shelter, jeaves guides to food; birdcalls warnings of predators. Early writing resembled landscape; other languagess -verbal, mathematical, graphic -derive from the language of landscape.
The language of landscape can be spoken, written, read, and imagined. Speaking and reading landscape are by products of living -of moving, mating, eating- and strategies of survival -creating refuge, providing prospect, growing food.
Anne Whiston Spirn, The Language of Landscape (1998)
To restore the Mill Creek neighbourhood requires an understanding of how it came to be, how the built landscape evolved, through what processes and actions, when, and which of its features have had a sustained impact on their surroundings over time. I use the word landscape in its original sense in English and Nordic languages—the mutual shaping of people and place—to encompass both the population of a place and its physical features: its topography, water flow and plant life; its infrastructure of streets and sewers; its land uses, buildings and open spaces.2 The urban landscape is shaped by rain, plants and animals, human hands and minds. Rain falls, carving valleys and soaking soil. People mould landscape with hands, tools and machines, through law, public policy, the investing and withholding of capital, and other actions undertaken hundreds or thousands of miles away. The processes that shape landscape operate at different scales of space and time: from the local to the national, from the ephemeral to the enduring.