Natural and territorial heritage. From Protection to the Management and Regeneration of the Cultural Landscape
Heritage protection initially concerned monuments with significant historical and artistic value, but was subsequently extended to encompass historic buildings in towns and cities. Later on, it was extended further still to cover territory and landscape as well as immaterial and intangible aspects. This broader remit poses many problems, not least how to manage heritage.
Two developments in the concept of heritage are connected with the natural environment on the one hand and with the territory and landscape on the other. The creation of national parks and the extension of heritage to encompass agriculture and rural space have had a decisive impact in this respect.
Mountains were generally regarded as repellent places, hindering travel and presenting the risk of being held up by bandits and robbers. People viewed them with fear and tried to cross them as fast as possible. If there was no way of avoiding them,18th-century travellers examined them carefully to see whether there were any crop fields or possibilities of such, or whether there were any forests or other resources that could be exploited. One example of this is Antonio Ponz, in his Viaje de España,
an account of his travels through the country in the second half of the 18th century. Like other enlightened people of his day, Ponz was charmed by the areas adjacent to certain towns and cities which farming had transformed into beauty spots or, as he sometimes calls them, gardens. Apart from precedents dating back to Bocaccio, it was during the latter days of the Enlightenment and then Romanticism that mountains began to attract the attention of intellectuals, and to appear explicitly and deliberately in the work of naturalists and artists like Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, Louis-François Ramond and others. In Spain, mountains were crossed and studied by, among others, Antonio J. Cavanilles and Simón de Rojas Clemente Rubio. These naturalist travellers climbed mountains to make geological, botanical and geographical observations, and to get a panoramic view of the surrounding land. The work of Alexander von Humboldt is very significant in this respect. Around this time, interest began to grow in what Alexander von Humboldt, as early as 1804, called “monuments of nature”.
The distinction between beautiful and sublime, on which Edmund Burke and Emmanuel Kant expounded, found in mountains, and in the force of nature, the emotion provoked by this latter sentiment. Travellers marvelled at the terrifying peaks and precipices they saw in the mountain ranges, at the menacing cliffs, at the terrible storms, at the grand and magnificent spectacle of nature that lifted the faculties of the soul and mind.
In the middle of the 19th century the positivist movement and the advent of ecology cemented the fascination with nature. The relationship between man and nature began to be viewed under a new light, as described in the book Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (1864) by George Perkins Marsh.
As the 19th century advanced, more and more attention was paid to the mountains of Europe and America. Forestry engineers, who in Spain were known as “mountain engineers” due to the abundance of woodlands in high areas, specialised in the conservation, replanting and improvement of forests and the construction of engineering works to model nature. The attractions of mountains were also discovered by ramblers, educators and travellers in general.
The protection of particularly important nature areas began in the 1870 with the designation of the first national park: Yellowstone (United States). Next came Yosemite, Sequoia (1890) and others in the United States, as well as in Canada and various other countries. In several countries in Latin America national parks were associated with the lost paradise, hallowed nature, national pride, the idea of a strong, growing nation whose treasures had to be preserved.
At the beginning of the 20th century different countries began to introduce legislation regarding the protection of nature areas and natural monuments. In Spain the first law governing the creation of national parks (1916) led to approval for the Covadonga and Ordesa Valley parks, and later on to the designation of different sites and natural monuments of national interest. By the 1950s, Spain had 15 national parks, 10 on the peninsula and the other five in the Canaries and Balearics.
Other countries adopted similar legislation. In Brazil the preoccupation with preserving nature areas was reflected in the acquisition of the Iguazú Falls by the government of Paraná in 1916 and the creation of the first national park, Itatiaia, in 1938. Argentina created its first national parks in 1934, simultaneously contemplating the beauty of these areas and the conservation of nature. As in the United States, the elites of Argentina and other countries believed that nature should be viewed as an active element in the construction of national identity, and that it had to be preserved for future generations.
Since the mid-20th century legislation on the protection of nature areas has gradually become broader and more cohesive.
However, since the middle of the 1970s neo-liberal policies have had a negative impact on this field, giving rise to a certain deregulation of natural heritage. For example, in the 1980s Brazil made significant progress in the conservation of nature areas (such as Serra do Mar and other places in the state of São Paulo), but in the 1990s the proliferation of neo-liberal policies affected this domain as well, resulting in the reduction or “flexibilisation” of protection and increased economic pressure on such areas, for example, for urban development purposes. A similar phenomenon has occurred in Mexico, where measures were recently taken to remove national park status from Nevado de Toluca. Meanwhile in Spain, certain mayors and municipal councils oppose the designation of national parks because they believe that greater protection will be detrimental to local businesses.
Nevertheless, other instruments for protecting natural heritage have emerged and gradually extended the scope and cultural dimension of measures in this area. In Spain the Law of 2 May 1975 introduced the concept of “nature park” as different from “national park”. This new instrument of protection was inspired by the regional nature parks in France and was designed for areas with a significant human presence, especially related to agriculture. Next came the Conservation of Protected Areas, Flora and Wildlife Act of 1989, followed by the measures adopted in Andalusia that same year for the Inventory of Protected Nature Areas, and by others such as the Natural Resources Management Plans and the Use and Management Master Plans. However, unlike the French legislation that inspired them, all of these instruments have a biological slant, with a special emphasis on biogeographical aspects, and attach less importance to agriculture.
On an international level, the Operational Guide for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, approved by UNESCO in 1992, introduced the concept of “cultural landscape” and placed greater emphasis on the territory and agriculture.
Attention to nature and landscape represents a broader vision on a completely different scale from the attention to monuments or the historic quarter of a town or city. Furthermore, it implies admiration and an emotional attachment to the beauty of the landscape. Increasingly, it is also concerned with the conservation of nature, threatened by intense human activity in industrialised countries and the ever- larger ecological footprint. In short, it is the conservation of biodiversity, the guarantee of the future of the planet and humanity.
Today, quite a large number of the protected nature areas and UNESCO sites are forests. Of the 900 areas with World Heritage status, about one hundred are forests, which occupy 75 million hectares. Even so, this number is too small, and, above all, it appears that the designation criteria used has tended to give precedence to outstanding areas rather than the need to preserve the more sensitive, fragile and threatened areas of the planet. In this respect, enormous efforts are currently being invested in securing the designation of these areas as “biosphere reserves”; in other words, as fragile environments that may be affected by changes in conservation practices and by the pressures of urban development, farming and livestock, increased tourism and visitor itineraries.
Nature has other values that are gradually being recognised in heritage policies. UNESCO itself has begun granting World Heritage status to sites with outstanding geological merits, such as the Joggins Fossils Cliffs in Canada, renowned for their fossils from the Coal Age and the remains of the first reptiles and rain forests, and the 392 square-kilometre Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, where it is possible to observe how the Alps formed through geological sections and tectonic thrusts.
Over the years geologists and geographers have publicised the existence of places with outstanding geomorphological merits (or “geomorphosites”) that should be known and valued more widely. These sites have scientific value because they allow us to reconstruct the earth’s geological history, but they are also natural monuments on different spatial and, often, imbricated scales. A recent compilation of studies aims to raise general awareness about these phenomena and encourage reflection on “the social functions of geomorphological sites, especially as regards our understanding of landscape, heritage value and environmental education”.
There have recently been attempts to assess and quantify the scientific significance of physical morphologies (relief, lithological structures, modelling, natural landscape features, and singular geophysical and biogeographical elements) and their accompanying cultural features, and to rate their heritage value in order to improve their management and public use. The demarcation of geological nature reserves would allow us to identify places that can shed enormous light on these elements of geomorphological heritage. There are also processes under way to grant natural heritage status to palaeontological remains with outstanding scientific value, and to publicise the historical and aesthetic merits of quarries, some of which have been exploited since Roman times. All of this has a very positive impact on the protection of nature.
Territory as Heritage
Little by little, territory has become an object of attention and protection. For example, in France the Law of 7 January 1983 stated that “every French territory is the common heritage of the nation”.
Territory may be regarded as an inherited natural and cultural heritage, built by man through the ages. A common concept nowadays is the “new territory-based culture”, which as noted in a recent manifesto refers to “the way in which, in every place, people can enjoy the resources offered by the territory and preserve its values for present and future generations”.
The recognition of the heritage value of territory first emerged as part of a general preoccupation with farming and rural heritage, and was subsequently reinforced by the defence of mining heritage and of maritime coastal and fluvial heritage.
The Discovery of Rural Heritage
Interest in the rural environment and in elements of the countryside that had previously been ignored gradually turned all of these areas and features into aspects of cultural heritage as well. This was a slow process conditioned by several factors. One was the role played by rambling and regional magazines in the discovery and appreciation of the merits of rural areas, for cultural and identity reasons but also with a view to regenerating local areas with very limited economic growth.
The discovery of rural areas by tourists was also facilitated by the proliferation of the automobile, but with a number of consequences. The diversity and contrasts of a landscape are often best perceived when outsiders come to visit an area or region. In many cases, landscapes are discovered not through the eyes of the local population but through those of strangers who come to explore them with a different perspective from that of the residents. The outsider perception often helps to raise awareness in the local residents about the value of the place where they live, and to turn part of it into heritage.
Visitors made drawings, took photographs, collected testimonies, recognising a value in the things that the residents used every day as a matter of routine and to which they often attached scant value, such as their farming implements and ordinary objects, not to mention their dwellings, whose architecture began to examined and drawn over and over again.
In addition to the creation and appropriation of heritage by visitors, who eventually came to be known as “tourists”, various movements emerged intent on popularising a more authentic appreciation by trying to reintroduce the vision of the local residents and preserve traditional customs for their value in the present and the future.
A number of experts may have influenced this process, either through academic research or the studies carried out by cultural associations in the towns and cities. The emphasis on the local environment was particularly important, as were publications that studied it through field work and surveys on the ground.
Knowledge of the local environment became both an academic pursuit and a goal for the general public. It is perhaps significant that a publication like the Petit guide du voyageur actif, by Pierre Deffontaines, initially released in 1938 and conceived as a guide for boy scouts keen to learn about different places, became so popular that it was reprinted on several occasions. Guides on studying the local environment, mainly written by geographers, also proliferated.
In the 1920s and 1930s the values of the countryside and its cultural and material products, of rural life and housing, and of the peasant culture, were extolled by geographers, anthropologists, folklorists and intellectuals with ties to the regionalist movements, who set about researching traditions and creating local and regional magazines. These examined the customs and beliefs that still endured, from country dances and handicrafts to social ideas and practices. Above all, their aim was to rescue and preserve. This vigorous interest led to the appearance of experts in these country traditions, the organisation of exhibitions, and the creation of public and private museums. After the Second World War many of these were created in villages and small towns in rural regions, and in some larger towns as well, bearing witness to the growing attention that was being paid to matters that had hitherto largely been ignored: local costume museums, museums dedicated to the products of the vineyards and olive groves, to farming implements, to livestock breeding, to toys, to fishing tackle or straw. The timeline for the creation of these museums in different countries clearly illustrates the advent of new preoccupations and topics of interest.
In this way, with all of these studies and insights, appreciation for the rural culture and customs grew, finally turning them into heritage. And as direct consequence of this, the national heritage also became local heritage, giving rise in the 1960s to the creation of new institutions and local museums.
As a natural extension of this fascination with local places and with traditional and specifically rural activities, great attention was devoted to farming practices, from the fallow system and livestock breeding to arboriculture and ways of channelling water for irrigation purposes. Agrarian landscape, the geography of the structures, and distribution of the fields and human settlements all became subjects of investigation for geographers, who interpreted the effects of farming practices on open, closed (bocage) and other types of fields. The main types of agrarian structures and landscapes became a key theme for geographic research, leading in turn to landscape ecology, a term coined by the geographer Carl Troll.
The landscape we see today is the product of an evolution that commenced thousands of years ago and will continue into the future. There is much more to this evolution than traditional landscapes, and to equating these landscapes with permanence and constancy. At times the notion of traditional landscape gives “a false impression of stability; it conceals a complex past and the darker side of the history of landscapes. Many landscapes have a turbulent, if not traumatic, past”. Studies of the history of agrarian landscape, from Marc Bloch to Emilio Sereni, have insisted on this same point. In his best known work, in which he examines the evolution of the Italian agrarian landscape over thousands of years, Sereni warns of the “dangers of a certain hypostatisation of forms of agrarian landscape that tends to place too much or all of the emphasis on its geographical consistency and resistance, rather than on the living, eternal process through which it has formed”. Histories of agrarian, and indeed, urban landscapes acknowledge the existence of phases of growth and stagnation, of periods of slow, gradual changes interspersed with others of relatively swift transformations. They also recognise that this complex history is reflected in the landscape, as the product of an evolution often dating back thousands of years but whose survival is now threatened by the hasty, large-scale interventions made possible by modern technical equipment.
UNESCO has granted World Heritage status to certain outstanding areas of farmland based either on their historical value as living examples of the origins of agriculture, or on the cultural significance they have acquired.
In Spain, the diversity of the agrarian landscapes has been studied. Geographers have examined traditional irrigation systems and their landscape and heritage values, the heritage related to water landscapes, including irrigation systems and all the elements associated with them: channels, waterwheels, aqueducts, ditches and tunnels to collect water (quanats, foggaras, etc.), flow dividers, siphons, ponds, terraces, and so on. Ancient irrigation systems are regarded as outstanding cultural landscapes, since they are also sustainable landscapes, and authors have criticised the destruction of traditional systems due to the loss, both economic and in terms of heritage, that this represents.
Another area of study has been devoted to integrated fluvial systems, which include water courses and the adjacent areas, and to the structures of agrarian landscapes on different scales, from terraces to plots. Spanish irrigation systems have been praised as historic landscapes with heritage value. Twenty or so of these systems have been singled out as examples of hydraulic heritage, featuring a variety of unique architectural, ethnological, documentary, legal and place name characteristics. The historical and functional aspects of each of these systems have been analysed individually and recommendations about their heritage and cultural values have been put forward. In some cases these values are truly exceptional (for example, the River Segura boasts the largest concentration of waterwheels in Europe).
Farming and agricultural heritage is very diverse and very rich, encompassing practices, traditions and occupations of outstanding value. The use of designations like “cultural property” and “ethnological heritage” for traditional architecture and vestiges of ancient economic activities has been extended to cottages, farmhouses and adjacent structures, haciendas, water and windmills, waterwheels, cisterns, dry stone walls, farm buildings, oil presses, pottery kilns, water supply systems, wine cellars, wine presses, sugar mills, tobacco barns, ice and snow pits, etc. Special attention has been paid to the rich agro-industrial heritage associated with the sophisticated cultural and technical aspects of viticulture, which now need to be protected as an important historical legacy.
Special attention has also been paid to mountain irrigation systems, dryland farming, with its use of the fallow system and crop alternation, livestock areas and practices, including seasonal migration, and the different types of agrarian landscapes in Spain, with all of their unique characteristics and gradual transformations.
The appreciation of the rural environment has also extended to arboriculture and forests, which as we have already seen are classed as heritage, with nature areas. This appreciation for trees ranges from ancient olive trees to cork oaks, whose uses are associated with traditional wisdom. In the case of cork oaks and the economic exploitation of cork, there has been much debate about the difficulties of assigning heritage value to this forest commodity due to the problems of conservation and the risks of degradation.
In light of the fact that the transformation of agrarian landscapes can be very swift, there have been constant warnings about degradation and the loss of heritage value. Various instruments to preserve the landscape have also been implemented, with mechanisms to involve the general public in landscape planning and intervention. Rural heritage has come to be regarded as a possible means of endogenous development, and particular attention is being paid to the vast array of functions it fulfils, from the landscape to the recreational aspects, and to the difficulties of managing them.
In 1992 UNESCO began to focus attention on cultural landscapes, paving the way to greater consideration of agrarian landscapes. This was reinforced by a growing concern about environmental degradation, the appearance of movements that attempted to reconcile nature conservation with human practices, a fascination with cultural landscapes, and recognition of the value of natural and agrarian landscapes for recreation and leisure. On an international level, key developments include the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), which was launched by the FAO in 2002 and recognises the value of traditional systems, and projects for the creation of a World Agricultural Heritage category for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Mining, Coastal, Maritime and Fluvial Heritage
Heritage appreciation also encompasses other areas related to economic activities. Initially focused on industrial heritage, it has since extended to mining and activities associated with maritime and fluvial areas.
In recent years many countries in Europe, America and other continents have granted listed status to mining areas with a view to protecting and acknowledging their historic value and tourism potential. UNESCO has already granted World Heritage status to various outstanding mining areas, such as the Neolithic flint mines at Spiennes, Mons, in Belgium. Spain has a long mining history dating back to prehistory and antiquity, from the flint mines at Cornellà and various Tartessian, Carthaginian and Roman mines to those exploited during the Early and Late Modern Eras. Mining parks, museums with impressive visitor figures, visitor centres and associations for the protection of mines have been created in an attempt to avoid the destruction of the historical remains of this activity.
There is an deliberate emphasis on regarding mining heritage in its every facet rather than focusing on isolated elements such as headframes and other features that are already protected. Surveys of mining heritage have been carried out in different regions, extending appreciation to the heritage values of the territory as a whole with a view to exploiting its tourism potential. In this respect, several important documents have been published, such as the El Bierzo Charter for the Conservation of Industrial Mining Heritage in Spain, approved in 2008, which has had an enormous impact on the protection and recovery of mines.
In some cases, the fascination with traditional housing has led to a new appreciation of mining towns in crisis. One example is the urban regeneration plan for the mining town of Lota, in Chile. The new land use plan for the Lota Alto complex and the renovation of the back-to-back housing have had enormous impact both in Chile and other Latin American countries due to the potential for promoting mining-related heritage tourism.
Other examples of economic activities that have come to be regarded as heritage are those of a maritime, fluvial and fishing nature. The latter in particular has attracted considerable attention in recent years.
The heritage aspects of nautical activity, from fishing to port facilities, have been examined, and in connection with this attention has focused on the urgent need to protect historic ports, floating maritime transport, port architecture, heritage buildings and their uses, fishing facilities, canning industries, old weaponries and navy yards, shipwrighting and salt marshes, and all the coastal towns and landscapes.
In relation to the protection of industrial maritime heritage, the general consensus is that this should also extend to rivers and lakes, and to the cross-cutting activities associated with them.
Similarly, there has been much discussion about the fact that the history of many towns and cities is inextricably linked to the sea and rivers, from artisan fishing to the development of transportation modes and technological innovation and inventions that have represented major breakthroughs in world history. All of which has given rise to specific lifestyles. The landscapes that these activities have generated are greatly appreciated, along with the material and immaterial heritage associated with them, as testaments to human progress.
Landscape and Cultural Heritage
All of these developments have led to a growing interest in different geographic environments and their landscapes, while the protection of heritage has extended to encompass the whole territory, including the natural and humanised landscape. Today, as a result of the interaction between human activities and the natural environment, cultural landscapes are studied by individual researchers and by organisations created specifically for that purpose.
Geographers were the first collective to take an interest in cultural landscapes. At the beginning of the 20th century they defined their discipline as landscape science, and landscape as the result of the interaction between humanity and the natural environment. Human action on the environment gives rise to cultural landscapes, which are created within the framework of practices that have emerged and developed at the heart of communities. In addition to the historical insight they offer us on the activities of social groups, landscapes also have identifiable aesthetic and other values: they contribute to the conservation of the environment and biodiversity, and they fulfil cultural, leisure and recreational functions. This approach is also linked to a growing interest in cultural geography, which studies the transformation of the natural landscape in a landscape humanised by the actions of mankind.
Landscape science has also benefited from the perspectives of other disciplines. For example, biogeography studies the natural landscape or landscape with minimal transformation by humanity, ignoring landscapes with extreme transformation by humanity, such as compact cities. Nevertheless, it would be relatively easy to look for and find geotopes and geofacies in cities, in a similar way to how they are identified in biogeographical areas.
The extension of the landscape to encompass the whole territory has undoubtedly been reinforced by the root “land” in the terms “landscape” and the German “Landschaft”, which suggest terrain or ground. Many people associate landscape with the adjectives agrarian and natural, and the use of the term is often reserved for areas of outstanding beauty. Some people believe that there is no such thing as urban landscape, a concept that has recently been challenged, as we shall see.
As indicated above, the concept of cultural landscape was defined by UNESCO in 1999. Article 1 of the 1999 Convention describes it as “the combined works of men and nature”, which are “illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal”. Since then, cultural landscapes have formed an essential part of world heritage in need of safeguarding and protection.
Studies on cultural landscape have proliferated in recent years. They are particularly prevalent in the field of geography, a discipline that once defined itself as landscape science and now pays a great deal of attention to itself. Architecture is another discipline that has gradually incorporated cultural landscapes as a field of study at universities and a topic of debate at conferences.
Observation of the Landscape
In the perception and appreciation of landscape, attention has also been paid to the importance of the observer’s view of it. Geographical studies conducted several decades ago demonstrated the role of cultural traditions in the way that landscape is viewed, appreciated and selected. For example, we know that Europeans and North Americans perceive landscape differently, in spite of their cultural proximity. Stereotypes are created and assimilated, influenced by preconceptions, level of education, and the ideas and images of the group to which one belongs.
Landscape is a human physical construction, produced by man’s actions on the original natural environment over thousands of years. But it is also a mental construct: to a certain extent, it does not exist until it is viewed, and in fact it is always reconstructed by the observer. As the philosopher Santayana said, “A landscape to be seen has to be composed”, and it is composed, in each case, with the objectives, personality and culture of the viewer, but also with the culture and general tastes shared by the group or society to which one belongs.
Some landscapes are constructed when the geographic area is viewed under a different perspective. This was the case of Spain’s Central Plateau, whose landscape was constructed by the writers of the Generation of 1898. Traditionally regarded as a place with little aesthetic charm, thanks to these authors it acquired the aura of the historical events that had transpired there. The images created in literary works also exert a powerful influence. Nowadays, a number of authors are gathering information and analysing natural and urban landscapes in novels and poetry. Sometimes these visions are quite startling: in the case of rural areas, due to way in which traditional life is sometimes mythicised; and in the case of cities due to the negative, subjective and nostalgic sentiments expressed, which rarely reflect the positive, dynamic aspects of urban life, such as innovation, creativity, the upward mobility of immigrants, and the culture, which is sometimes shared and enriched by the very same authors who denigrate it.
The development of the art gardening, and the concept of the English garden in particular, also influenced the perception of landscape. The sentiment of the sublime, the value of nature, the appeal of ruins, the romantic view of landscape... many ideas have been tried and tested and related to that perception.
Figurative representations of landscape select vistas, points of view. Peasants perceive land from a practical point of view. As we have already seen, it is frequently visitors who perceive it as different or unique. In fact, landscape is constructed by people travelling and discovering new lands; it is built upon the strangeness of what is new and the quest to identify similarities and differences with lands already discovered. Meanwhile, geologists, naturalists, geographers, engineers, botanists, anthropologists and architects all view landscape with a specific purpose in mind, observing it in a much more deliberate way than simple travellers.
During the Renaissance landscape was increasingly represented in paintings and drawings, as background scenery. In the 17th and 18th centuries it gained more prominence, as painters turned landscape into the central theme of their canvases.
The vedute of Italian cities first appeared in the 15th century and soon acquired extraordinary precision, culminating in Jacopo de’Barbari’s visit to Venice in 1500, and during the 16th and 17th centuries in city plans with the “topographia accuratissime delineata”, or the outstanding accuracy of the topography and landscape of the city as a whole and of specific quarters. These vistas were subsequently consolidated in the 18th century through the work of painters like Gaspar Van Wittel, Giovanni Canaletto, Bernardo Bellotto and Francesco Guardi, often produced for foreign visitors on their “Grand Tour”. Sometimes, in their attempt to depict idyllic landscapes, artists would abandon the ve dute esatte and move monuments or paint composite vistas.
The use of optical instruments such as the telescope and the camera obscura to view landscape also impacted on its perception. Certain Dutch painters used these instruments from as early as the 17th century, or possibly before then, and they were increasingly used in the 18th century by Italian vedutistas, travellers and naturalists. Simón de Rojas Clemente took one with him on his travels through Andalusia between 1804 and 1809, fixing his first view with precision and then completing it with life illustrations.
The “bird’s eye view” of landscape, from above, was first perceived and constructed by those who painted the early vistas of cities (such as the aforementioned Jacopo de’Barbari’s view of Venice in 1500), created with the aid of detailed plans and by climbing towers and imagining the entire vista. Next, in the 18th and 19th centuries, came the images from hot-air balloons. In the latter century in particular, there were several ambitious attempts to represent cities, like Alfred Guesdon’s L’Espagne à vol d’oiseau, published in Paris in 1855, which featured a series of lithographs with aerial views. It is still not certain how Guesdon created these images, but he probably used photographs taken from a captive balloon. Finally, landscape was observed and represented from aeroplanes, giving rise to aerial geography. The geographer Pierre Deffontaines and the sociologist Paul-Henry Chombard de Lauwe championed the aerial discovery of the world, convinced that the aeroplane offered a new way of viewing the earth.
Photography provided another new way of viewing landscape, offering the advantages of increasingly accurate representation. Photographs not only reflected reality but constructed it. Similarly, the advent of tourism introduced a new form of landscape observation. The photographs of the early travellers and travel organisers have often become stereotypical images of things that have to be seen with one’s own eyes; landscape is viewed from the perspective of the tourist/traveller, who comes with his/her own preconceptions, just like the British travellers of the 18th century. What previous accounts, and guide books, tell us about what there is to see, affects the way we see it. And in turn, the way a land is viewed by tourists can ultimately affect the way it is viewed by local residents.
Sometimes, when we look at landscape the way we see it is coloured by a biased or partial view, as we have seen to be the case with the histories of cities when there is a deliberate attempt to link them with certain periods in the past and ignore all the intervening events. In certain eras and countries, the Roman past has been important, especially when it has been possible to identify and interpret. This is particularly true of Italy, where it explains Mussolini’s obsession with the ancient ruins of Rome, and to lesser extent it has also occurred in France, Spain and other countries that formed part of the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Common Era. That Roman past has also been used to justify the domination of former European colonies, especially in the North of Africa where the French colonists deliberately promoted the excavation of Roman towns for that purpose, as has been demonstrated in the case of Volubilis.
Measures for Promoting Landscape as Heritage
Since the 1980s several international measures have been adopted to protect landscape. The Council of Europe has introduced increasingly broad and precise criteria in different conventions. In 1982 the Benelux Convention on Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection defined a specific series of landscape objectives which were reaffirmed in the 1990s by the increasing preoccupation with biological diversity, reflected in the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (1997).
The Mediterranean landscape became an object of specific attention in 1992, with the approval of the Mediterranean Landscape Charter, or Seville Charter, which was recognised by the Council of Europe. This subsequently gave rise to the European Landscape Convention, which was approved in Florence in 2000 and has been ratified by most of the 47 Council of Europe member countries within the framework of a campaign entitled “Europe, A Common Heritage”. Under the terms of this convention, landscape is regarded as “any area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and the interaction of natural and/or human factors” (Art. 1). It therefore covers “natural, rural and urban areas”, including “land, inland water and marine areas” (Art. 2).
The Florence Convention has had a crucial impact on landscape policies in Europe, but its implementation has also posed countless problems regarding methodologies for zoning, classifying and organising recommendations for the protection of landscape units. It recognises that every region or country has a landscape comprising natural, rural, urban and peri-urban areas, grants heritage, aesthetic and identity values to all landscapes, and recommends the adoption of regulations to protect them. Many of the countries that signed the Florence Convention are modifying their legislation and planning instruments to meet the objectives set out in the agreement and progress from merely protecting the landscape to managing and planning it.
In a constantly and rapidly changing world, these preserved landscapes or areas have enormous value as spaces of remembrance, with historic or symbolic significance. In fact, they are “islands of memory”.
But they also have other values and implications. In October 2010, on the 10th anniversary of the Florence Convention, the positive aspects of that agreement to safeguard and protect heritage were reaffirmed and its implementation was agreed to have led to efforts by citizens to improve the collective quality of life. The consensus was that “the commitment to heritage appreciation and protection and to the creation of landscapes undoubtedly constitute essential aspects”. The idea is to create a new territorial culture in order to “build societies that are more cohesive and human, capable of using resources in a conscious and sustainable manner”. Undoubtedly, the initial preoccupation that inspired the notion of landscape protection partly stems from losses of natural heritage and biodiversity around the globe, and in Europe in particular, and the desire to contribute to the regeneration of degraded landscapes. This explains why the focus is no longer solely on landscapes of unique or outstanding beauty but includes all landscape, both rural and urban, both constructed by human action and natural, both exceptional landscapes with a universal value (as recognised on a specific list) and ordinary ones, and, ultimately, all landscapes that need to be protected, managed and planned. Landscapes are undergoing the same process as buildings in the past, which were initially valued as isolated monuments until public appreciation spread to everything around them, even modest buildings. It is the same with landscapes: first it was just the exceptional ones that were valued but now the immediate environment and the ordinary ones are included as well.
The statement that “every territory is landscape” is a necessary corollary of this perspective. Landscape diversity is a significant value, and the policies implemented should play a role in guaranteeing that diversity and its quality as essential aspects of sustainable development based on a harmonious balance. The aim here as well is to preserve the diversity of the landscapes we have inherited so that we can pass it on to future generations.
Spain signed the European Landscape Convention along with other member states and it was ratified by the Spanish parliament on 6 November 2007. Furthermore, some of the autonomous regions in this country have introduced their own legislation on landscape. Meanwhile, the ones along the Mediterranean coast have collaborated with each other and with the Mediterranean regions in other countries to implement coordinated public policies on the protection of this area, based on the shared conviction that “high-quality landscape is a key factor for the competitiveness and sustainability of Mediterranean urban areas”. Another very useful initiative in this respect is the promotion of good landscape practices by these regions. Meanwhile, on a national level, Spain’s land management policies have gradually incorporated instruments related to landscape.
In addition to all of these developments, UNESCO has accepted the concept of cultural landscape as the definition of world heritage created by humanity. In 2006, the World Heritage List included 55 sites under this category.
As we have seen, the fascination with landscape has evolved into an interest in the territory and industrial, mining, agrarian and rural landscape in general. We have also seen that observation of the landscape provides us with an insight into a spatial order that is the product of human action stemming from specific cultivation and management aims and imbued with a set of cultural values and practices associated with precise technical know-how. Moreover, nowadays spaces like mountains, coastlines, regional landscapes and urban landscapes are treated as outstanding areas.
Mountains have become a “brand”, while the landscape they contain has become heritage. In light of the crisis affecting these mountainous areas, the rural and livestock activities, also in crisis, are searching for a way forward by placing the emphasis on the quality of their products, on rural tourism, on landscapes, and in particular on natural heritage that can be promoted with slogans that make reference to a natural paradise.
Urban landscape is extremely complex due to the occupation density and the multiple functions it fulfils. In this respect, the definition of landscape agreed at the European Convention in Florence in 2000 has been crucial, because it explicitly states that the term applies to all types of land, including urban and degraded areas. Today, the city, in its widest sense, comprises stark contrasts, in terms of its morphology and different types of landscapes.
In certain cases there have been attempts to introduce measures to adapt landscapes, mainly in peri- urban areas and in the approaches to cities and towns.
There is also a wide movement in favour of the landscape dimension of archaeological sites dating from different protohistoric and historical periods, which has led to studies and movements to protect their immediate environments. Attention has been paid to the landscape impact of these sites, from dolmens and other prehistoric and protohistoric elements to ancient, medieval, Islamic and Christian sites.
All of this has given rise to a new discipline, namely, landscape archaeology, with a vast remit. This in turn has led to the inclusion of protection measures in urban and regional planning (such as land management and regional plans), to specific protection and management measures, with recommendations for the creation of cultural parks adjacent to archaeological monuments, and to concrete guidelines for “visually decontaminating” the landscape around them.
During all this time the existing legislation had essentially limited protection to the archaeological monument in question, to its specific site, and paid very little attention to its surroundings. Nowadays, this has changed in that the legislation covers not only the site itself but its setting, with a special emphasis on its territorial and landscape context.
One interesting example in this respect is the movement regarding the appreciation of prehistoric megalithic remains (such as Stonehenge and the dolmens at Antequera), and the debates that these have sparked about the significance of the sites and the meaning of seeing and being seen in relation to them.
A key aspect studied in this context is the importance of the “legacy” represented by megalithic archaeological elements, which have “an intrinsic heritage value” and also enrich the regional landscape. In addition to their consideration as “sculptures in the landscape”, they are valued for the insight they provide into how “the societies of the past were able to build such complex monuments, less technologically advanced than our modern-day monuments but with extraordinary visual and symbolic merits”. And conclusions are drawn about the need to promote a “new type of monumentalisation” of archaeological heritage in general and in how it relates to the surrounding landscape.
There have also been specific recommendations to analyse and classify the landscapes of different countries. One example is the Atl as de los Paisajes de España, published by the Spanish Ministry of the Environment. An example on a regional level in Spain is the Landscape Observatory in Catalonia, which has published the Catálogo de los Paisajes de Cataluña, with specific reference to the scope of partial urban development plans. Meanwhile, the Andalusian Landscape and Territory Research Centre has published the Mapa de los Paisajes de Andalucía and conducted studies on the landscape in relation to land use management, town planning, heritage, the environment, agriculture, and on landscape theory and methodology and landscape policies. There are also several concrete proposals and methodological debates at the European level, but this is not the place to discuss them.
Nowadays there is a general consensus that the perception of landscape is influenced by the observer’s mobility, and by professional, social and recreational factors. Landscape has been viewed on foot, on horseback, from a carriage, from a train, from a car, from a bicycle. The landscape as it is seen from a car became a particularly popular topic among architects, inspired by the work of several authors.
Studies have been carried out on how we perceive landscape while driving through urban environments and mountains. This explains the interest in carrying out studies and classifying landscapes viewed from “scenic routes”, a concept that first emerged some time ago in the United States in relation to landscape protection measures (scenic ways, green ways, skyline ways, scenic roads, etc.). Thanks to various international landscape protection conventions, this concept has recently been revived and currently has numerous practical applications. Methodological manuals that discuss road planning and design criteria have also been published in an attempt to integrate roads with the landscape, and specific studies have been carried out on selected scenic routes.
In Andalusia these experiences have led to interesting studies on the creation of a scenic route network to promote the visibility and perception of the region’s varied landscapes. This has resulted in the publication, based on diverse criteria, of a catalogue of the most important routes in this part of Spain, featuring 46 stretches of road (1,666 kilometres) with outstanding heritage and educational value. These routes may well have a positive impact on regional and rural development, and the landscape has also been examined in light of its relationship with railways.
There is also a general awareness of the fact that landscapes change very fast and that those created today are often less interesting and more commonplace that those that history has passed down to us. This clearly highlights the need for landscape policies and efficient landscape management instruments.
One important problem in this respect is the installation of technical elements in the landscape, from high and very high voltage transmission towers to wind turbines and photovoltaic power stations, and highly illuminating studies have been published on these as well.
There have even been recommendations to promote the merits of perturbed landscapes. For example, in post-mining landscapes there are initiatives to promote an appreciation of degraded areas and find beauty in the tips. In these areas it is possible to identify different types of landscapes: lakes, reservoirs and ponds, industrial heritage, energy landscapes, settlement landscapes (mining villages, etc.), and even landscapes that acquire artistic value by casting wastelands in an aesthetic light and turning them into a type of land art. The aim is to make rejected, repellent areas seem attractive, to use this new perception to turn these desolate landscapes in which the desolation endures even after the mines have closed into charming attractions.