[www.fisierulmeu.ro] cultural landscapes a bridge between culture and nature.pdf

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  • 8/12/2019 [www.fisierulmeu.ro] cultural landscapes a bridge between culture and nature.pdf




    Ken Taylor

    It is the landscape as a whole that largely manmade tapestry, in which all other artefacts areembedded which gives them their sense of place.1


    Historic(al) landscapes with their heritage valuescultu ral landscapeshave reached key status inthe field of cultural heritage conservation and planning. International recognition of culturallandscapes was extended in 1992 to World Heritage prominence with the establishment of threecategories of cultural landscapes of outstanding universal value. Notably cultural landscapes arecritically at the interface between nature and culture, tangible and intangible heritage, biological

    and cultural diversity. They represent a closely woven net of inter-relationships between people,

    events and places through time; they are a symbol of the growing recognition of the fundamentallinks between local communities and their heritage, people and their natural environment and arefundamental to peoples identity. The presentation will give an overview of the cultural landscapeidea, its significance in international heritage conservation work and will explore how the conceptin Asia has potential for special meaning and as a role model because of the enduring continuousnourishing tradition of history and ways of life manifested in rural and urban settings and theinextricable role of intangible values in the relationship between people, place and identity

    The rise of cul tur al l andscapes

    The 1990s saw a remarkable flowering of interest in, and understanding of, culturallandscapes: what David Jacques nicely calls the rise of cultural landscapes.2As a result of

    the rise with associated emergence of a different value system inherent in cultural

    landscapesthere came a challenge to the 1960s and 1970s concept of heritage focussing

    on great monuments and archaeological locations, famous architectural ensembles, or

    historic sites with connections to the rich and famous. Widening interest in public history

    and understanding that the landscape itself, to those who know how to read it aright is

    the greatest historical record we possess3 underpinned the emergence of the cultural

    landscape movement. It also informed the notion that places or landscapes reflecting

    everyday ways of life, the way people create places, and the sequence or rhythm of life over

    time were significant. They tell the story of people, events and places through time, offering

    a sense of continuity, a sense of the stream of time. They also offer a cultural context settingfor cultural heritage.

    The concept of setting is critical to an appreciation of the rich layering inherent in the

    cultural landscape idea. The 2005 International ICOMOS conference theme at Xian, China,

    stressed the importance of setting in the practice of conserving cultural heritage in changing

    townscapes and landscapes with the commentary that:

    Setting is not just about physical protection; it may have cultural or social dimension. Tools needto acknowledge both the tangible and intangible aspects of setting. They also need to reflect thecomplexity of ownership, legal structures, economic and social pressures that impinge on the

    physical and cultural settings of immoveable heritage assets.

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    Critical to the 1990s movement were the 1960s and 1970s scholarly writings of cultural

    geographers like David Lowenthal, Peirce Lewis, Donald Meining,4J.B. Jackson5with his

    inimitable essays on the everyday American scene, Dennis Cosgrove6in Britain, or Dennis

    Jeans7 in Australia. They built on the late nineteenth century German tradition of Otto

    Schltters Kulturlandschaft with landscape morphology seen as a cultural product and

    Franz Boas who championed the idea that different cultures adjusted to similar

    environments and taught the historicist mode of conceptualising environment.


    They alsofollowed the tenets of the American geographer Carl Sauer who, in the 1920s, continued

    this discourse with the view that the cultural landscape is fashioned out of a nat ural

    landscape by a culture group.9An underlining message was and still is to use ones

    eyes and intellect out there, to read the landscape as a document of human history with its

    fascinating sense of time and layers replete with human values which inform the genius of

    the place.

    Equally important to the new sense of history and heritage values in the cultural landscape

    idea was the concept that we could be involved in place making. Visitors to cultural

    landscapes could be given a sense of participation through presentation of appropriate

    interpretative material. So in the 1990s the cultural landscape idea gathered momentum. Itpermeated cultural heritage management and planning thinking and practice.

    What i s a cultural landscape?

    As we have seen, the term cultural landscape comes from the German term

    Kulturlandschaft. The word landscape similarly has its origin in Anglo-German

    language dating back to 500AD in Europe. The wordlandscaefand the notion it implied

    were taken to Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers. It meant a clearing in the forest with animals,huts, fields, fences. It was essentially a peasant landscape carved out of the original forest or

    weald, ie out of the wilderness. So landscape from its beginnings has meant a man-made

    artefact. In the nineteenth century landscape became imbued with nationalisticallyreligious and then scientific associations in Europe and North America linked to the concept

    of wilderness or wild nature: something apart from people as with the Transcendentalist

    movement in North America. The ultimate wilderness experience was one of solitude:

    people and their trappings spoiled landscape in this image. We saw the zenith of this

    ideology in the 1980s and 1990s where nature and culture were regarded by some natural

    heritage lobbyists in the Western tradition as antithetical. At the extreme, people were not

    part of nature and landscape was not seen as a cultural construct. It acquired objective

    scientific meaning.

    In contrast to this elitist natural heritage view of landscape was the geographers view of

    landscape as a way of seeing.10In other words landscape itself was, and still is, explained as

    a cultural construct replete with humanistic meanings and values. This also includes the

    exclusive notion of wilderness, making it in reality a cultural construct and cultural


    Given the traditional relationship between nature and culture in Eastern cultures one may

    ask the question of whether the term cultural landscape poses problems for these culture s.

    Following this line of thought, Feng Han argues, for example, in China that the term

    Cultural Landscapes is problematic for the Chinese.11She posits that landscape has

    its specific meanings in China which contrast with western notions, including inter alia that

    it is humanistic rather than religious; it is aesthetic rather than scientific; travelling in natureaims to be enjoyable, instead of solitude oriented; artistic rebuilt nature is more beautiful

    than the original. In this latter point it is interesting to note that in the sixteenth century

  • 8/12/2019 [www.fisierulmeu.ro] cultural landscapes a bridge between culture and nature.pdf


  • 8/12/2019 [www.fisierulmeu.ro] cultural landscapes a bridge between culture and nature.pdf



    landscapes are a product of change. They embody physical changes which in turn reflectevolving attitudes towards the landscape. It is important that we learn to interpretcultural landscapes as living history and as part of our national identity. They contain awealth of evidence of our social and material history with which we readily associateheritage values.he





    It is important also to remember that the cultural landscape idea embraces urban areas,

    including historic towns and citiesor parts of theseas well as rural areas. Again Asia is

    well endowed with such entities. Outstanding examples of historic urban areas in Asiaalready on the World Heritage List include for example in addition to George Town

    Luang Prabang; Hoi An; Ayutthaya and Sukhothai; and five historic/sacred cities out of

    seven nominations in Sri Lanka. But not one of these uses the World Heritage categories of

    cultural landscapes.

    World Her itage status

    The term cultural landscape is now widely used internationally. In 1992 cultural

    landscapes arrived on the world heritage scene with the declaration of three categories of

    cultural landscapes of outstanding universal value for World Heritage purposes:

    Clearly defined landscapes designed and intentional ly created by man: eg

    Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, Spain(2001 ); no Asian inscriptions exist notwithstanding

    places like Suzhou, China being WH listed cultural properties.

    Organicall y evolved landscapes in two categories:

    (i) A relict or fossil landscape in which an evolutionary process has come to an end but

    where its distinguishing features are still visible.

    (ii) Continuing landscape which retains an active social role in contemporary societyassociated with a traditional way of life and in which the evolutionary process is still in

    progress and where it exhibits significant material evidence of its evolution over time.


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    Cultural landscapes inscribed on the WH list in the Asia-Pacific region include for example:

    Champasak cultural landscape including the Vat Phou temple complex, Lao PDR

    (inscribed 2001) in recognition of its presentation as a remarkably well preserved planned

    landscape more than 1000 years old, shaped to express the Hindu relationship between

    nature and culture from the 5th to 15th centuries; Orkhon Valley cultural landscape,

    Mongolia (2004) reflecting the symbiotic relationship between nomadic, pastoral societies

    and their administrative and religious centres and the importance of the area in the historyof central Asia; Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (1995).

    Associative cul tur al landscapes: the inclusion of such landscapes is justifiable byvirtue of the powerful religious, artistic, or cultural associations of the natural element

    rather than the material cultural evidence. Tongariro New Zealand (1993), Uluru/Kata

    Tjuta National Park, Australia (1994) are two Asia/Pacific examples.

    Asia-Pacifi c: a missed opportuni ty?

    By July 2009 there were 66 World Heritage Cultural Landscape Properties: of these about

    12 or 13 and I will add only 12 or 13are in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific region. Othernominations such as Tana Toraja in Indonesia are in the waiting list for assessment. By

    comparison the figures for 2003 were 30 and 4 respectively. So there has at least been some

    welcome increase in recognition of the significance of cultural landscapes.

    Many existing Asian properties on the WH List, eg Ayutthaya, would admirably fulfil the

    category of continuing landscape of outstanding universal value with cross references to the

    associative cultural landscape category. They offer scope for renomination.

    The foregoing discussion prompts the question, why is this so? Here it is instructive to look

    at the issue through the lens of authenticityand its relevance to notions of heritage in

    Asia. This is where the spirit of place resides as much in the meaning and symbolism ofplaces and their settingintangible valuesas it does in tangible physical fabric.

    The Nara Document and H oi An Protocols for Best Conservation Practice in Asia16

    Special aspects of authenticity and spirit of places in Asia are addressed in these two

    landmark documents which have profound relevance to the cultural landscape idea and its

    application in Asia.

    In recognition of the significance of authenticity in cultural heritage management the

    drafting of The Nara Document on Authenticity (International ICOMOS 1994) aimed to

    challenge conventional thinking in the conservation field. It acknowledges the framework

    provided by the World Heritage Committees desire to apply the test of authenticity in ways

    which accord full respect to the social and cultural values of all societies in relation to

    cultural properties proposed for the World Heritage List. The Nara Document is a tacit

    acknowledgement of the plurality of approaches to the issue of authenticity and that it does

    not reside primarily in Western notions of intact fabric. It is an attempt to explore an ethos

    that acknowledges local traditions and intangible values. Logan (2001) suggests rightly that

    the Nara Document was a powerful voice from the periphery, a veritable watershed. 17

    The Nara Document acknowledges the need to respect cultural diversityand all aspects of

    belief systems. It proposes that authenticity judgements may be linked to a variety ofinformation sources. These may includeform and design; materials and substance; use and

    function; traditions and techniques; location and setting; spirit and feeling. The Document

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    points out that use of these sources permits elaboration of specific artistic, historic, social,

    and scientific dimensions of a cultural heritage place. Nevertheless it has been misused

    within Asia to suit nationalist ideals (which are just as imperial as earlier Eurocentric or

    Americanised ones), possibly because of its generalised nature. It made a virtue of being


    The draft Hoi An Protocolsdocument promulgated in 2005 by UNESCO Bangkok is anattempt to rectify the woolly nature of the Nara Document. The sub-title of the protocols

    Professional guidelines for assuring and preserving the authenticity of heritage sites in the

    context of the cultures of Asia is an important statement of the recognition of diverse and

    enduring cultural identities in Asian countries. The protocols recognise the impact of

    tourism in Asia and effects on restoration and presentation of heritage places for tourism

    purposes. The document includes a series of definitions which draw considerably on the

    Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter. The inclusion of a section on Asian Issues is welcome,

    particularly in the mention of indigenous and minority cultures and the need to find ways of

    interpreting sites within an appropriate context as a way of engaging visitors.

    The protocols are an attempt to underscore the inter-relatedness of practices for theconservation of the physical heritage sites, the intangible heritage and cultural landscapes.

    Whilst they have potential to be a valuable guide, the separation of cultural landscapes from

    archaeological sites; historic urban sites/heritage groups; and monuments, buildings and

    structures in the section Site Specific Methodologies for Asia is confusing. Indeed it

    seems misleading...