1.- Introduction

The territory has always been a determining factor in the formation of the identity of nations, communities and different places. But today the question that arises is whether in a globalized world it is possible to continue talking about territorial identity.

As argued Michael Hough, founder of the landscape architecture program at the University of Toronto:

The visual nature of the pre-industrial landscapes was formed by the need. There was no other alternative than to accept the limitations imposed by nature, culture and technology. The differences between one place and another, the feeling of belonging or rooting to a particular location has been accepted since there were no other alternatives. (…) The lack of alternatives forced the recognition of the regional imperatives.

In other times, contextual constraints helped determine the identity of a territory, the population that lived in it and consequently the constructions that human beings built in those places.

At the moment, these obstacles no longer exist, we can import any physical or cultural thing from anywhere in the world and apply it to a totally different area. Even more, thanks to the technological evolution we can even change the sound of this territory to make it look like anywhere else. It is a fact that we can see continuously in our surroundings, in the architecture, in the policies of management of the territory, in the urbanism and to the own culture. These factors are no longer determined by the limitations of the nearest environment, but not by the needs imposed by a global culture.

In principle this should not be a problem, the territory is not immovable, and throughout history it has been changing due to both natural factors and human activity. But before these transformations responded to a necessity, and were delimited by the own exigencies of the place where they took place.

The problem appears when these transformations are made without taking into account the territory where they occur, nor the impact they may have on it. If we add a standardization to the models of construction, materials and architectural designs, what we find is that the identity of each territory has been blurry. The differences between the urbanizations of a certain territory and those of another very remote and different have become virtually imperceptible. The same applies to industrial estates or leisure areas, among others.

It is what Urban Geogra’s professor at Urban of the UAB calls urbanization.

2.- Panorama

As has already been said, all these rapid transformations, implemented without the necessary planning and without assessing the landscape and environmental impact, have caused a great loss of the identity of the territory.

It is necessary to create a collective consciousness on this subject since the landscape and the territory are factors

determinants in our identity as a society.

The problem is that most of these changes go unnoticed by much of the population.

We have to take into account that the landscape is a cultural construction, it is our brain that creates landscapes by observing territories, and if our mind is not able to accept and incorporate these transformations of the territory, we do not have the conception of this degradation of the different locations.

This is what Joan Nogué, director of the Catalan Landscape Observatory, called the invisibility of the territory: “We only see those landscapes that we want to see, those that respond to our traditional idea of ​​landscape.”

If we are not able to see these transformations, we can not assess the impact they have or the suitability of performing them in a specific place.

That is why I think that it is more necessary than ever to give all possible visibility to this issue; it is necessary to make the greatest possible public disclosure about the problems of loss of landscape identity. Focus on the transformations of the territory.

Many photographic and artistic projects have been made on this subject, and academic studies are regularly analyzed analyzing the situation and warning about the problem. But these works usually do not have any kind of impact beyond the academic or artistic world. The vast majority of society does not receive the information and is not aware of this problem.

That is why I have decided to promote a platform to give more visibility to all these projects that can help to understand the situation. Clearly, if we want to reach a broad spectrum of population, we must make this disclosure very visually and comprehensibly, we can not expect people to read a 200-page book on this subject, but if we can get more simple and concentrated articles talking of it. And so does the artistic projects.

This is how the idea of Panorama, a web platform, is born, which brings together visual and academic works in a very attractive way for the viewer. Where people with diverse interests can see and understand the problem of the identity of the territory, and why not, participate actively in this disclosure.

3.- Colophon

Design by Querida
Code by Feijoo Montenegro

Contact —
info@panorama.com
+34 689 068 920

Ken Taylor Landscape: memory and identity

Any landscape is a condition of the spirit 

-Henri Frédéric Amiel-¹ 

One of our deepest needs is for a sense of identity and belonging and a common denominator across diverse cultures is human attachment to landscape and how we find identity in landscape and place. Studies of  landscape and its meanings have been coincidental with a widening interest in the public history movement and everyday landscapes. It underpins the notion that landscapes reflecting everyday ways of life, the ideologies that compel people to create places, and the sequence or rhythm of life over time tell the story of people, events and places through time, offering a sense of continuity: a sense of the stream of time. Therefore, landscape is not what we see, but a way of seeing.(Cosgrove 1984). Historically taking Cosgrove’s reflection on seeing and comprehending is Milton’s comment on a piece of landscape in 1632:

Streit mine eye hath caught new pleasures

Whilst the Lantskip round it measures.

Neither is landscape simply or overwhelmingly a product. Rather, it is a process in which humans create landscapes – cultural landscapes – where ‘our human landscape is our unwitting biography, reflecting our tastes, our values, our aspirations, and even our fears in tangible visible form.’ (Lewis 1979). In this context of landscape as process, and social/cultural process at that, ‘landscape concerns the world we are living in’ (Wylie 2007:1).

Memory of landscapes visited, or where we live, are invariably associated with pleasant memories and associations. Yet landscape memories are not always associated with pleasure. It can be associated sometimes with loss, with pain, with social fracture and sense of belonging gone, although the memory remains, albeit poignantly. Here we may think of the Killing Fields at Phnom Penh or the Auschwitz Concentration Camp complex. We may also think of a loved landscape that has disappeared as in the case of Margaret Drabble (1979, p.270) in A Writer’s Britain: Landscape in Literature referring to Virginia Woolf’s sense of loss of a loved place where she vividly expresses an emotional sense of landscape lost:

The past lives on in art and memory, but it is not static: it shifts and changes as the present throws its shadow backwards. The landscape also changes, but far more slowly; it is a living link between what we were and what we have become. This is one of the reasons why we feel such a profound and apparently disproportionate anguish when a loved landscape is altered out of recognition; we lose not only a place, but ourselves, a continuity between the shifting phases of our life.

Corresponding with the opening quote to this essay on the relationship between landscape and spirit is Relph’s (2008) proposal that the spirit of a place lies in its landscape. In both quotes ‘spirit’ has associational connections and meanings in the sense of spirit as ‘the non-physical part of a person … the seat of emotions and character; the soul.’ (OED). In this way the abstract idea of spirit is inseparable from the intangibility of the accumulation of human memories and meanings – private and collective – and identity that we associate with the word ‘landscape’. Focusing on landscape as a key word inevitably brings into consideration inquiry into the meaning of the words ‘places’ and ‘spaces’ and their relationship to ‘landscape’. We are apt to interchange these three words ‘space, place and landscape’ and use them synonymously, when in fact, whilst linked, they have different associations.

Space can be described as a location which has no social connections; no value has been added to it and no meaning ascribed to it. It is more or less abstract. Nevertheless there is a relationship between space and place in that spaces become places when given human connections and meaning, either through physical interaction or in indirect and conceptual, symbolic ways as for example in literature and art or by the simple fact of people living there. Spaces and associated places therefore are part of, and cumulatively create, the landscape where landscape is the setting for our lives. Here is what we call the ‘cultural landscape’ physically reflecting the process of landscape making through time replete with human associations anchored in values and meanings. It is a process where we can recognise successive layers in the landscape through time. We may therefore ask: ‘What is landscape?’. Here I am perversely reminded of Peter Howard’s challenging suggestion that ‘Landscape is not very rational’ (Howard 2011:2); a statement which he then perceptively deconstructs with the beguilingly profound yet simple and comforting observation that landscape ‘is intensely personal and reflects our own history and culture, our personal likes and dislikes. It is always about “my place”, or at least somebody’s place.’

To try to summarise, we need to understand that people see and make landscapes as a result of their shared system of beliefs and ideologies. In this way landscape is a cultural construct, a mirror of our memories and myths encoded with meanings which can be read and interpreted. In effect landscape is human culture on display, telling a story of events, people and places through time. As JB Jackson so eloquently encapsulated the essential meaning of landscape as summarised by his pithy comment ( Jackson 1951:5):

A rich and beautiful book is always open before us. We have but to learn how to read it. 

 

References:

Cosgrove, D. E. (1984) Social formation and Symbolic Landscape, London & Sydney: Croom Helm.

Howard, P. (2011) An Introduction to Landscape, Farnham: Ashgate.

Jackson, J. B. (1951) Landscape 1 (Spring 1951).

Lewis, P. (1979) ‘Axioms for Reading the Landscape: Some Guides to the American Scene’, in

Meinig, D.W. (ed.) The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes, New York and Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 11-32.

Relph, E. (2008, first published 1976), Place and Placelessness, London: Pion.

Wylie, J. (2007) Landscape, Abingdon UK & New York: Routledge.

Professor Ken Taylor, Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies, Research Centre for Humanities and Arts, The Australia National University, Canberra, Australia.

(c) Text by Ken Taylor

 

¹Swiss philosopher and poet, 1821-1881.