Readings of the Living Landscape Lectureship at the Academie van Bouwkunst, Amsterdam 2010 – 2011
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“I argue here that the selection of identifiably Dutch land formations and sites, their dramatization and physical manipulation, and above all their “naturalization” appealed to the unique conjunction in seventeenth-century Holland of three historical elements. Specifically, the political, economic, and religious shifts that together convulsed seventeenth-century Holland gave new meaning to the local, the prosaic, and recognizable features of land, for dramatic changes took place in these three spheres simultaneously.”
Recent critiques of the nature–culture dualism, influenced by diverse theoretical stances, have effectively destabilized the “naturalness” of nature and highlighted its pervasive and intricate sociality. Yet the practical, ethical and political effects of this theoretical turn are open to question. In particular, the emphasis on the sociality of nature has not led to reinvigorated environmental or landscape politics. Meanwhile, the need for such politics has if anything increased, as evident when ongoing and, arguably, accelerating landscape transformations are taken into account.
The landscape concept in geography has recently been adopted by humanistic writers because of its holistic and subjective implications. But the history of the landscape idea suggests that its origins lie in the renaissance humanists’ search for certainty rather than a vehicle of individual subjectivity. Landscape was a ‘way of seeing’ that was bourgeois, individual- ist and related to the exercise of power over space. The basic theory and technique of the landscape way of seeing was linear perspective, as important for the history of the graphic image as printing was for that of the written word. Alberti’s perspective was the foundation of realism in art until the nineteenth century, and is closely related by him to social class and spatial hierarchy. It employs the same geometry as merchant trading and accounting, navigation, land survey, map- ping and artillery. Perspective is first applied in the city and then to a country subjugated to urban control and viewed as landscape. The evolution of landscape painting parallels that of geometry just as it does the changing social relations on the land in Tudor, Stuart and Georgian England. The visual power given by the landscape way of seeing complements the real power humans exert over land as property. Landscape as a geographical concept cannot be free of the ideological overlays of its history as a visual concept unless it subjects landscape to historical interrogation. Only as an unexamined concept in a geography which neglects its own visual foundations can landscape be appropriated for an antiscientific humanistic geography.
“I argue that we should adopt, in place of both these views, what I call a ‘dwelling perspective’, according to which the landscape is constituted as an enduring record of – and testimony to – the lives and works of past generations who have dwelt within it, and in so doing, have left there something of themselves.”
“Why is it, I wonder, that we have trouble agreeing on the meaning of landscape? The word is simple enough, and it refers to something which we think we understand; and yet to each of us it seems to mean something different…”
The European Landscape Convention – also known as the Florence Convention, – promotes the protection, management and planning of European landscapes and organises European co-operation on landscape issues. The convention was adopted on 20 October 2000 in Florence (Italy) and came into force on 1 March 2004 (Council of Europe Treaty Series no. 176). It is open for signature by member states of the Council of Europe and for accession by the European Community and European non-member states. It is the first international treaty to be exclusively concerned with all dimensions of European landscape.
Jones, Michael, Howard, Peter, Olwig, Kenneth R., Primdahl, Jørgen and Herlin, Ingrid Sarlöv
The multiple interfaces of the European Landscape Convention were the topic of a roundtable panel discussion held at the meeting of the Permanent European Conference for the Study of the Rural Landscape in September 2006. The roundtable was convened by Kenneth R. Olwig, who together with four other speakers presented the main topics for discussion. Their presentations are given here as a series of short articles. Initially a brief historical background and the main provisions of the European Landscape
Convention (Florence Convention) of 2000, in force 2004, are presented. The interfaces with law, landscape ecology, heritage, and globalisation are then successively discussed. Finally, the European Landscape Convention itself is examined as a discursive interface, with contradictory as well as synergetic aspects.
During the past two decades, landscape has frequently been conceptualized as a distancing way of seeing space. This conceptualization is normally traced back to the rise of
capitalism and various modes of artistic representation, notably in the early modern Netherlands or the northern Low Countries. Yet recent scholarly interventions have asserted that landscape in the Low Countries and elsewhere in Europe was more than a distant scenery or an artistic mode of representation. Landscape also animated practices and ideologies of political representation, platial justice and custom. The platial notion of landscape and related concepts in the northern Low Countries around 1600 is focused upon, bringing out the intimate relationships between land, water and diverging ideals and practices of justice. It is argued that artistic landscape representation provided ways to reflect upon spatio-political developments in the Netherlands. Finally, there is a brief consideration of how these theoretical and historical issues resonate with modern thinking about landscape in physical planning.
“Landscape, I will argue, need not be understood as being either territory or scenery; it can also be conceived as a nexus of community, justice, nature, and environmental equity, a contested territory that is as pertinent today as it was when the term entered the modern English language at the end of the sixteenth century.”