Meaning Depends

Meaning depends on all the receptors, whether they are users, sponsors, critics or theorists. This angle is not examined very deeply in the literature because investigating the response of all these ‘beings’ is highly complicated. It demands a deep understanding of the development of the socio-economic setting, the identification of all those who give meaning to the place and for whom it has meaning, and the renunciation of beliefs such as the existence of a single truth to be attained and a universal mental structure. It also demands that we question, as Potteiger and Purinton do, the narrative’s capacity to respond to the programming and forces us to believe in the possibility of giving meaning and still giving comfort, as Herrington says. As these authors suggest, using narrative to lend meaning to a garden involves the users and critics as much as it involves the designers.

Meaning as an approach to landscape architecture is criticised and questioned by the very people who expound it. According to Barnett, the search for meaning does not change the reality of the spaces themselves, while Treib asks whether it is possible to discuss meaning without defining it, and whether the reality, after all, is that the designers simply suggest meaning and it is up to the users to find it.

Nicole Valois, Josiane Paradis, Place Émilie-Gamelin in Montréal – landscape narrative, meaning and the uses of public space (2010)

Imma Jansana + Robert de Paauw, Barcelona Turo de la Rovira Belvedere (2011)



Narratives are also there in landscapes. They intersect with sites, accumulate as layers of history, organize sequences, and inhere in the materials and processes of the landscape. In various ways, stories “take place.”

The term landscape narrative designates the interplay and mutual relationship that develops between landscape and narrative. To begin with, places configure narratives. landscape not only locates or serves as background setting for stories, but is itself a changing, eventful figure and process that engenders stories, A road establishes a sequence while opening the possibilities of chance encounters. The scale of space becomes the scope of an epic or the confines of a personal drama, Traces in the landscape hold secrets and invite interpretation. Trees, rocks, ground, weather, or any elements can serve as emblems in a narrative. In this manner people map landscapes into the very texture and structure of stories.

In turn, every narrative, even the most abstract, allegorical, or personal, plays a critical role in making places. It is through narrative that were interpret the processes and events of place. We come to know a place because we know its stories. Whether it is an encounter with the edge of a forest or a drive down a suburban street, we know these places through personal experience as well as from books, television, or folklore.

Matthew Potteiger and Jamie Purinton, Landscape Narratives (1998)

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the-blair-witch-project1the-blair-witch-project-evidenceThe_Blair_Witch_Project_1080_423.The Blair Witch Project Woods Scene 2blair-witch-projectThe_blair_witch_project_05-19    Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez; The Blair Witch Project (1999)