Roe, M. H. (2007) The European Landscape Convention: a revolution in thinking about
‘cultural landscapes’, Journal of Chinese Landscape Architecture, 23(143): 10-15 (in
Chinese with English Abstract)
Final Draft version:
The European Landscape Convention: a revolution in thinking about ‘cultural
School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape
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The thesis of this paper is that the European Landscape Convention has set out a much more
holistic understanding of landscape than was previously the case within Europe. The
Convention embodies thinking that is beginning to be reflected in the work of governments,
environmental agencies and a wide range of interested parties within the landscape field in
Europe. Landscapes are not necessarily classifiable as being either ‘natural’ or ‘cultural’
because all landscapes within Europe are to some extent or another impacted by humans.
The term ‘cultural landscape’ could therefore be seen as redundant, since all the landscapes
of Europe can also be described as ‘cultural’ to some extent. However the issue of labelling
or classification is really much more complex. Different individuals, organisations and
cultures often develop values according to the extent of human intervention or associations
that may have built up over time. The European Landscape Convention helpfully does not
value any one landscape above another, indeed it recognises that local and degraded
landscapes are as likely to be of importance to the communities – or cultures - who inhabit
them or the people who visit them as those which are commonly found to be labelled as
globally important. The Convention is revolutionary in the way it has put ‘ordinary’ as well as
‘special’ landscapes onto government agendas throughout Europe.
The European Landscape Convention embodies revolutionary thinking in relation to the
meaning of the term ‘cultural landscape’. Adopted in 2000 by the Council of Europe, this
Convention not only aims to promote the protection, management and planning of European
landscapes, but also to organise and promote co-operation between the countries of Europe
on landscape issues. The Convention recognises all the territory as part of the landscape,
including urban, peri-urban, rural and natural land as well as water areas and sea. The
condition of this territory is immaterial to recognition under the terms of the Convention. This
pioneering approach provides a holistic view of landscape that has grown out of
contemporary thinking on sustainability and understandings of the human condition related to
ecological processes – or culture and nature - and as such it is an important precedent with
considerable potential global significance. This paper examines the background to the
Convention and understandings of the term ‘cultural landscape’. The paper reviews what the
Convention has contributed to policy, thinking and action on the ground and reflects on the
significance of the Convention in terms of the concept of cultural landscapes. Finally the
author speculates on where this might take us in terms of cultural landscapes of the future.
2.0 The Background
2.1 European Concepts of Cultural Landscapes
Both the terms ‘cultural’ and ‘landscape’ have many different meanings for different people
throughout the world. The term ‘landscape’ in the UK has been used to indicate both an ideal
place and area of land with particular features and characteristics made that way by drivers of
change both natural and human. So there has long been an understanding that value cannot
be separated from a physical description, that the term landscape captures both natural and
cultural features and values, with a special emphasis on the relationships between these
(Roe, 2007). In Europe generally, the understanding of ‘landscape’ holds strong links to a
cultural heritage of painting, literature and music and although this may be similar in cultures
outside Europe, it may seem a completely alien view to others where ‘landscape’ holds fewer
esoteric associations. Phillips (2007) believes this difference in view has hindered the
development of discussion and policy in relation to landscapes at the global level.
Wylie (2007) examines the use of the term ‘landscape’ as an empirical field to be studied
morphologically, a way of seeing the world, an associable set of cultural values, practices and
governances and an ensemble of dwellings. Olwig (2003) and Corner (1999) both provide
useful analyses of the history of the term landscape in Europe which can be seen to have
derived from the Old English landskip or landskaap in Old German but also preceded by the
Old German landschaft which is a complicated term that referred to a ‘deep and intimate
mode of relationship not only among buildings and fields but also among patterns of
occupation, activity and space’ (Corner, 1999:154) in other words, a place with its own
customs and something much more than scenery. Olwig (2005) further suggests that
landscape is not just a spatially defined area, but it was a concept defined by custom and
culture over time. He traces these to the political and legal origins of landscape as set out in
the European Landscape Convention. For many years concepts of landscape in Europe,
particularly in the UK, were strongly and often only related to aesthetic considerations,
predominantly to what can be seen (see Muir, 1999). Those outside the profession of
landscape architecture still use the term ‘to landscape’ meaning solely to rearranging the
vegetation and landform to provide a pleasing picture or to ‘beautify’ the environment.
However, it is interesting that landscape architects in Europe are now perhaps the least likely
of all those professionals involved in landscape in one way or another to consider landscape
as a concept relating solely to the visual.
The European Landscape Convention has now clearly set out a definition of landscape and
encapsulated a broad understanding of the term: ‘landscape means an area, as perceived by
people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human
factors’ (Council of Europe, 2007a). Thus landscape is now understood to have evolved as ‘a
result of being acted upon by natural forces and human beings’. It also underlines that ‘a
landscape forms a whole…[and the…] natural and cultural components are taken together not
separately’ (Déjeant-Pons, 2006a:379). Perhaps one of the major achievements of the
Convention is that it has clearly set out a number of definitions like this which are now in
general usage by those such as policy-makers involved in the landscape throughout Europe.
(Table 2). This may seem a minor point, but the importance of interpretation and language
should not be underestimated here. There are now over 23 official languages spoken in
Europe, plus many other regional language forms, and when one reflects that even within one
small country, such as the UK which has one very dominant language, there are major
differences in understandings in terms such as ‘landscape’ and ‘cultural’, then this effect is
magnified many times over where many languages are involved.
When we turn to the term ‘cultural landscape’ the problem is no less difficult. This term came
into common use in the 1990s, probably mainly as a result of its use by the World Heritage
Committee which first recognised ‘cultural landscapes’ in 1992 (Rössler, 2003). Fowler
(2001) argues that the term ‘cultural landscape’ is meaningless particularly in a country like
the UK where all landscapes are influenced by humans. So although some might argue that
the term ‘landscape’ actually already includes concepts indicated by the term ‘cultural’, the
use of the conjunction ‘cultural landscape’ is now relatively common within Europe and, while
there are many different definitions, in general it has been regarded as an area where natural
qualities of great value ‘co-evolved with human society’ (Phillips, 2001:61). Conceptually
speaking, this is very close to the definition of landschaft described above. Sauer and others
emphasise the two-way interaction between physical landscapes and folk or national cultures
in the creation of ‘cultural landscape’ (Ingerson, 2000; Plachter & Rössler 1995). But cultural
landscapes do not always evolve slowly as a result of small decisions by a number of
landowners or farmers but sometimes by rapid change through design (Green & Vos, 2001).
Ashmore & Knapp (1999) review the concept of cultural landscape from a ‘post-modernist
perspective’ where landscape is seen as a ‘“cultural image” whose verbal or written
representations provide images, or “texts” of its meaning or “reading”.’ (p.3). Through all these
discussions it can be seen that human experience is projected into and preserved in a wide
range of ‘cultural’ landscapes and therefore cultural landscapes are most importantly about
people. To examine a broader description it is useful to look at a definition developed in 2003
during a working group of the Le Notre Project, which is a Europe-wide network of Landscape
Architects funded by the European Union:
Cultural Landscapes are landscapes where a strong relationship or synthesis can be
seen between human intervention and natural process. Such landscapes mould and are
moulded by the communities which live within them, and they both exhibit such moulding
to a varying degree. Also important is cultural association and special meanings which
communities identify in the landscape and which may not be visible. Cultural landscapes
may be situated in urban, suburban, rural or wilderness areas and they exist over a
continuum of time reaching from the prehistoric to the future at a variety of scales from
the domestic to the landscape scale (Roe, 2003).
There is a tendency for cultural landscapes to be examined as something that developed in
the past; that is they are historic or archaeological landscapes formed by peoples in past
times, something to be conserved or preserved rather than something that is living, changing
and being changed by cultures and communities today. There is even less focus upon the
concept that cultural landscapes might just be being created today that might be valuable in
the future. Cultural landscapes are sometimes described as ‘traditional landscapes’.
However in many European countries only fragments of what could be considered to be
traditional landscapes now survive.
So there have been and still remain major dilemmas in Europe as to definitions, concepts and
approaches in relation to cultural landscapes. However under the auspices of the European
Landscape Convention, a platform at the supra-national level has now been provided where
such dilemmas can be expressed and discussed by a wide range of people interested in
landscape issues. It is now understood that cultural landscapes develop as a result of
state of flux and should not be managed to retain a moment frozen in time – i.e. the
process of evolution and change is an essential feature of cultural landscapes
(Davies, pers. comm., 2005). Spirn (1998) emphasises the importance of people
understanding process not just elements in landscape because ‘material, form and
space are sensed and shaped by processes, by touching, seeing, moving and by
erosion, fires, vandalism and care. Processes provide action’ (p.96).Landscapes
moulded by the agricultural techniques used upon them are sometimes regarded as
‘beautiful pictures’, which should be ‘preserved intact’ (Priore, 2001:31). But this
preservationist approach is now being challenged in a number of ways. In 2001
Chris Smith MP in the British Parliament stated that cultural landscapes are ‘about
neighbourhoods that have deep meaning and local associations for the people who
live there – working farms, woodlands, rivers and springs. The sheer diversity and
detail of these locally characteristic features, as well as the traditions and memories
associated with them, are the very essence of the richness and distinctiveness of our
European landscapes’ (Kelly et al., 2001:6).
2.2 Influences on the Development of Policy and Practice in relation to the Landscape
As Adrian Phillips (2007) has acknowledged, until the 1990s landscape was given far less
attention than other environmental issues such as nature conservation and pollution control
within policy at the European level. The first real identification of landscape as a special issue
can be seen at the European level by policymakers through the Dobris Assessment (Stanners
& Bourdeau, 1995) and the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy
(Council of Europe, 1996).
The rise of the sustainability agenda has been particularly important in the development of the
European Landscape Convention. In many European countries there has been an increasing
pressure on land which has meant the fragmentation of habitats and an increasing loss of
traditionally managed landscapes and cultural features, a reduction in diversity of all kinds
within the landscape, but also a disappearance in the characteristics of the landscape that
may not be tangible e.g. associations, songs, traditions, myths and legends. Landscape
ecological thinking suggested that in future it would not be enough to simply protect ‘special
landscapes’, particularly in many of the densely populated areas found in Europe. This has
now influenced many areas of landscape work including the need to protect the diversity
found in the landscape. In addition, research on for example tranquillity mapping and
landscape characterisation has also brought a realisation that the threats of development and
degradation are not just to ‘special’ landscapes, but to what had hitherto been thought of as
‘ordinary’ landscapes. Sustainability thinking has generally encouraged the ideal that human
well-being and environmental protection should be pursued together (Phillips, 2007), plus
more integrated thinking in relation to landscape issues and a more holistic approach to the
management and development processes working in relation to landscapes in terms of
economic, social, cultural and ecological considerations.
Landscape studies have also moved away from the idea of landscape purely as ‘land’, but
now see it more in terms of ‘territory’, most importantly to include water bodies and sea areas
– now sometimes described as ‘seascapes’. This has allowed for more inclusive thinking in
relation to rivers and to coastal areas and the establishment of more extensive – or landscape
scale - protected areas such as marine reserves. In the UK in particular there has also been
a retrospective agenda within agencies that fund environmental improvement. For example
the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has provided considerable finance to help restore historic
urban parks, thereby providing much work for Landscape Architects. There has also been a
move by archaeologists and others concerned with survey and management to think more in
terms of historic landscapes rather than artefacts, elements or sites. An example of this might
be the way Stonehenge is now seen as only one part of a much wider cultural landscape with
a number of important historic sites. There is a better understanding within policy circles that
examining past change in the landscape – for example in relation to climatic change - might
help us to learn something useful for our present dilemmas and that ‘reading landscape is a
way of understanding how our ancestors survived and shaped the world around them’
(Phillips, 2007: 85).
Another important influence on recent thinking has been increasing political will in relation to
developing policy concerning European landscapes. This is partly because greater
awareness has grown of the rate of loss of landscape elements largely as more sophisticated
methods of survey (e.g. satellite imagery) have emerged. Methods of evaluation are now
beginning to value what was previously unvalued. Of course monetary considerations always
speak loudest to politicians, but there has also been a considerable influence in the rise of
green issues which has persuaded politicians that environmental ethics and sustainability
issues are important vote-winning agendas.
3.0 The Convention Revealed
3.1. The Council of Europe
A number of key people have been instrumental in the development of the Landscape
Convention, Mme Maguelonne Déjeant-Pons, Head of the Spatial Planning and Landscape
Division at the Council of Europe has been and continues to be one of these. She sets out a
clear and comprehensive description of the European Landscape Convention (see Déjeant-
Pons, 2006a) in a special issue of the international peer review journal Landscape Research
which is owned by the Landscape Research Group (LRG), a UK based charity which has
been active in lobbying and supporting the Convention’s development.
The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental consultative organisation consisting of a
Committee of Ministers. It was founded after the Second World War in 1949 and currently
has 46 member states representing about 800 million people (Europa 2007). The Council of
Europe is often confused with the European Union, but it has more members (the EU has
currently 27 members) and it has been more concerned with issues of culture, identity and
providing a platform where the various peoples of Europe can be heard (Howard, 2004a). It
was set up to ‘maintain and develop the ideals of individual freedom, rule of law and
democratic principles through greater unity’ (Europa, 2007). The European Union and the
Council of Europe work closely in a number of areas, and although they share the same
values and pursue the common aims of protecting democracy, respecting human rights and
fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, one of the key differences is that the Council of
Europe has little or no money to spend. The Council of Europe sets out legally binding rules in
Conventions (Agreements that are less formal than Treaties) which are open to signature and
ratification by member States and non-member States as well. The process by which this
happens is very confusing and is largely related to political manoeuvrings in individual
countries. Much of the work of the Council of Europe is concerned with issues such as
human rights, but the thinking on this has broadened into an understanding of the importance
of protecting identity and cultural values throughout Europe. Concerns over quality of life and
social well-being are seen as key factors in the development of the European Landscape
Convention and the recognition of the role of landscape in human development and European
identity (Déjeant-Pons, 2006a). The Dobris Assessment of Europe’s Environment, which was
published in 1995 (Stanners & Bourdeau, 1995), identified the need for European level action
to protect landscape. However the Convention itself also responds to the need for
landscapes to evolve to meet society’s changing needs (Phillips, 2007) which is a key point,
and one that distinguishes this Convention from other policies in Europe related to the
3.2. The European Landscape Convention – Description
The European Landscape Convention was opened for signature in Florence, Italy, on 20
October 2000 under the aegis of the Council of Europe Campaign “Europe, a Common
Heritage”, and it came into force on 1 March 2004. Countries may sign up to the Convention
and by doing so indicate their general support for the declared principles. The Convention is
not legally binding until it is ratified by the particular country and then it may take several
months before it comes into force legally in that country. The total number of ratifications (as
of September 2007) is 27 and those countries who have signed but not yet ratified equals
seven (see Table 1).
The aims of the Convention are ‘to promote landscape protection, management and planning,
and to organise European co-operation on landscape issues’ (Council of Europe, 2007c). The
Convention is structured in four main sections with a preamble (introduction) (see Council of
Europe 2007b). In summary these sections set out:
i. The objectives and scope of the Convention;
ii. The measures to be taken at national level;
iii. The basis for co-operation, the measures to be taken an international level and the role
of committees responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention;
iv. The procedures for adopting the Convention.
The Convention sets out general and specific measure at national and international level that
countries should undertake. In terms of general measures: apart from the recognition of the
importance and role of landscape and establishment of policies in relation to landscape,
countries must set up procedures to increase public and stakeholder participation in the
formulation and implementation of landscape policies, and they must ensure that landscape
considerations are integrated into a wide range of other relevant policy areas. Specific
measures broadly cover the need to raise awareness, provide training and education, the
implementation of survey and evaluation, the institution of quality objectives and the
implementation of landscape policies. At International level there is agreement to co-operate
on landscape issues and, where there are transfrontier issues, to work to prepare suitable
landscape programmes (Déjeant-Pons, 2006b).
The European Landscape Convention does not specifically refer to ‘cultural landscapes’ as
does the UNESCO (United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation)
Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 16
November 1972 (UNESCO, 2007). Nor does it identify or designate specific special
landscapes. The basis for the European Landscape Convention is to recognise that all
landscapes are important and that landscape itself is a cultural concept (Howard, 2004a). The
two Conventions have different purposes and scope that reflect the organisations under
whose auspices they were drawn up. However they are seen as complementary. The main
objectives of the European Landscape Convention is to ‘introduce protection, management
and planning rules for all landscapes based on a set of principles’ (Déjeant-Pons,2006a: 367).
The UNESCO Convention, commonly known at the World Heritage Convention, is world-wide
and deals predominantly with historic monuments and in some cases their context. There are
851 sites in 141 countries, and 184 countries have ratified the World Heritage Convention. It
developed from two movements, one concerned with the conservation of important cultural
sites – particularly built form – and the other concerned with the conservation of nature. The
World Heritage Convention aims to protect ‘universally significant properties that embody a
world of outstanding examples of cultural diversity and natural wealth’ (UNESCO, 2007). Of
course such designations include a number which can be considered to be landscapes, e.g.
the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; the Dorset and East Devon Coast in the UK; and Mount
Huangshan Scenic Beauty and Historic Interest Site, Sichuan Province, China. However it
was not until 1992 that criteria were adopted which meant that ‘cultural landscapes’ were
specifically recognised and included under the World Heritage list. A major issue is that there
is a disproportionate number of World Heritage cultural landscape sites in Europe compared
to the rest of the world (Phillips, 2007).
There are a number of other difficult issues that such designation raises including the fact that
giving World Heritage status also provides a considerable tourist attraction and many of these
sites have become ‘honeypots’ for tourist activity. This of course often brings with it many
problems related to how to preserve the site from inappropriate and damaging tourism
pressures. While the roots of the thinking embodied by the World Heritage Convention lie in
the policies of the early nineteenth century where there were laws to protect monuments in a
number of European countries, the European Landscape Convention reflects contemporary
imperatives to consider the quality of all landscapes. Much of this thinking has grown from
landscape ecological theory that suggests that creating small reserves is not enough to
provide protection, but both buffer areas and consideration of connectivity within the ‘matrix’
(or the whole of the rest) of the landscape is critical to ensure protection and survival.
Those responsible for developing the European Landscape Convention were very concerned
to avoid conflict with other existing international and national laws, as can be seen in the
various supporting documents and in the explanatory documents which in particular
recommend scientific co-operation between those concerned with the European Landscape
Convention and the World Heritage Convention (Council of Europe, 2007a). In order to avoid
difficulties and conflicts between the various Conventions, the European Landscape
Convention states that it cannot overturn stronger laws made concerning landscape in other
existing or future national or international policies (Déjeant-Pons, 2006a).
One particularly useful feature of the Landscape Convention documentation is the definition of
terms used e.g. landscape, landscape policy, landscape management and landscape
planning. The exchange of ideas and experience between governments, Non-Governmental
Organisations (NGOs) and others is encouraged by the Convention, and there is a
considerable number of documents, and increasing research, conferences and other activities
related to the subject. A recent report from a Council of Europe Conference noted that the
Convention was already helping to encourage progress in the development of landscape
policies in many member states at national, regional and local level (Council of Europe,
2007b). Monitoring the implementation of the Articles of the Convention is now the main
focus of attention within the Council of Europe.
3.3. The European Landscape Convention - Landscape Threats and Opportunities
Threats to the sustainability of cultural landscapes in Europe are now becoming clearer as the
type, rate and extent of change is understood. For example, the impact seen on the UK
landscape of the European Union agricultural policies has encouraged the view that
agricultural subsidies can act as a major threat to the cultural and natural heritage of
agricultural landscapes. The drivers of change in the landscape are now of particular interest
for landscape research. An example of an important driver is the increase in tourism as
already mentioned. In some areas this has encouraged the ‘museumification’ of landscapes,
in others landscapes may be under threat from the physical impact of too many visitors.
Economic drivers of change have caused the migration of populations and landscape
abandonment in many European countries. Change in the landscape reflects both global and
local pressures which is why it is important to have mechanisms which provide for protection
and enhancement of the landscape at many different levels, from international to local.
The European Landscape Convention is a landmark in the recognition that all landscapes
should be considered as valuable, and that landscape is ‘a key element of individual and
social well-being and quality of life’ (Council of Europe, 2007a: preamble). The Convention
emphasises that landscape cannot be protected by drawing lines around what are considered
‘outstanding’ areas at the expense of others. All landscapes have the potential to hold some
kind of meaning, provide identity and benefit to the community (see Figure 1), and landscape
‘must be recognised and protected independently from its value’ (Priore, 2001:32).
Fairclough et al. (2002) identified that the European Landscape Convention has provided new
opportunities for different disciplines to come together within the common interest. Although
Phillips (2007) suggests that the cross-disciplinary nature of landscape studies is a problem in
that landscape was ‘everyone’s interest, but no one’s responsibility’ (p.86), this I believe is
now a strength in relation to action on cultural landscapes in that many disciplines are
becoming involved and recognising the European Landscape Convention to be of key
relevance to their work.
So although many desirable outcomes have now been agreed in relation to European
landscape policy through the European Landscape Convention, there are some considerable
difficulties to overcome (Howard, 2004b). Language and cultural viewpoints aside, there are
also many areas of potential disagreement between the disciplines involved, between policy-
makers at national and local level, between Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and
interest groups, between conservationists and tourists – the list goes on and on.
There is much debate on suitable tools, scales, and scientific models that are appropriate in
the implementation of the Convention. This is because the member countries have very
different political outlooks, domestic environmental legislation and policy, as well as varying
professional and scientific expertise, knowledge and financial resources for this kind of work.
However particularly useful tools are Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA), Landscape
Character Analysis and the use of conceptual models such as DPSIR (Driver-Pressure-State-
Impact-Response) (see Svarstad et al., 2008) to understand the driving forces of change.
Some countries believe they have achieved many of the objectives of the Convention already
within their policy, but this may not necessarily be borne out by an examination of what is
going on at ground level. For example the UK may now have extensive survey material and
strong measures in place in terms of protecting ‘special’ landscapes, but in relation to what
the Convention labels ‘peri-urban’ (in and around cities), which is where the majority of the
population live, there is still much to learn and it is a much contested area of policy.
4.0. Conclusion: The European Landscape Convention - A Landscape Revolution?
There is a plethora of policies, directives and statues relating to the environment in Europe.
However the European Landscape Convention is the only one which takes an holistic
approach emphasising that landscape exists everywhere, that it is an important part of
community and personal identity and local cultures even when ordinary or degraded. The
Convention recognises the importance of integration and co-ordination in environmental
policy and the need for a landscape planning approach. It also provides us with an important
new springboard to think about landscapes of the future. Article 1of the Convention
specifically covers landscape planning which it sees as the process ‘by which new
landscapes are created to meet the aspirations of the people concerned’ and to ‘radically
reshape the damaged landscapes’ (Council of Europe, 2007a). Sarlöv-Herlin (2004)
suggests that Landscape Architects are in a strong position to provide expertise in this field
due to their training in synthesis and cross-boundary thinking in relation to natural and social
science and humanities. But how do we go about creating landscapes that will be valued in
the future? The European Landscape Convention indicates that what are now considered
ordinary landscapes may already be highly valued by local communities; in other words they
could be labelled as today’s ‘cultural’ landscapes. Indeed many of the landscapes identified
under the World Heritage Convention were the ordinary agricultural landscapes of the past.
Naveh (1995) sees the cultural dimensions of landscapes as the ‘tangible meeting point
between nature and mind’ and that there is a critical need for a ‘new conception of cultural
landscapes’ to ensure the ’reconciliation of human society with nature’ (p.43). There is in the
UK a re-examination of what ‘cultural’ actually means in relation to landscape. In Britain there
are now initiatives celebrating and building upon local identity (e.g. Clifford, 2001) as well as
reflecting alternative cultural identities in the new ways neighbourhood land is managed.
Most recent thinking suggests that new ‘cultural’ landscapes can be created as a positive act
of landscape regeneration and renewal (Taylor 1993; Kelly et al., 2001). If the cultural
landscape is ‘the meeting place between humankind and the environment’ (Phillips, 2001:61)
and is ‘the result of consecutive reorganization of the land in order to adapt its use and spatial
structure better to the changing societal demands’ (Antrop, 2005:21), then we can consider
how these concepts might be used to help us create ‘new’ cultural landscapes.
The development of cultural landscapes is often seen in terms of long-term management
where individuals and communities get close to land by toil with it or constant exposure to its
features which people imbue with particular meanings. What is important is to remember that
both the natural world and human cultures are in a constant state of change. If we assume
that a mutual moulding needs to take place for landscape to be considered as ‘cultural’, how
can this be done in the development of new cultural landscapes? If cultural landscapes mirror
the cultures that are involved in their creation, what kinds of landscape will we gain from
landscape initiatives today and do we really want to mirror our present culture in the
landscape? (Figure 2)
Research findings support the view that concepts of cultural landscapes are very personal
and depend on practices of landscape (e.g. walking, looking, gardening etc.) or interactions
with the landscape (Coles & Bussey, 2000; Fowler, 2001; Appleton, 1986; Wylie, 2007).
Fowler (2001) indicates that cultural landscapes need to ‘speak to us of experiences, of
places remembered, of ideas such as ‘scientific reservoir’, ‘memory-bank’ and ‘desirable
destination’ (p.78). Here perhaps is the key – if the creation of new cultural landscapes is
dependent on personal experience, imagery and meaning, then this requires access and
accessibility to that landscape - visual or spatial – and without experience of the landscape
that cultural meaning cannot be constructed. It could be argued that those who enjoy
community forest landscapes today are moulding the landscape in a number of ways:
physically e.g. walking in it and digging it; by making decisions about it through involvement in
policy and planning; by being involved in the economics of the forest through subscribing to
something which is involved in its change; and by involvement in visioning events, or planning
its future (Figure 3). In turn community forest landscapes can ‘mould’ people through
affecting their health and well-being (quality of life) and through influencing their everyday
behaviour, education and point of view.
It is clear that the identity and character of landscapes are intertwined with the cultural
character of communities, which have moulded and have been moulded by them. Cultural
landscapes are often associated with agrarian and historic landscapes, but it is possible to
identify a much wider definition and a scope of study and work which incorporates urban,
suburban, rural and wilderness landscapes over time reaching from the prehistoric to the
future and encompassing a dynamic view of scales from the domestic to the regional, or
landscape, scale (Roe, 2003). While the study of landscapes of the past helps us to
understand and define communities, it also may provide information concerning sustainable
landscape management methods, cultural meanings, associations and the aesthetic
preferences of communities. Such study will help Landscape Architects to plan and design
richer and more sustainable ‘cultural’ landscapes in the future.
The European Landscape Convention provides a starting point for an understanding of
European cultural landscapes and the way Europeans now regard their landscape heritage; in
particular the importance of social and economic driving forces, the understanding of the
participation of ordinary people in the evolution of landscapes and the role of ‘ordinary’
landscapes in our cultural heritage and future health, wealth and happiness. So the
Convention can be seen as revolutionary in many different ways; a major benefit in particular
is the way it puts landscape firmly on the agenda at European policy level.
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Thanks to the North East Community Forests (NECF) for permission to use Figure 3.
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Table 1. European Landscape Convention status as of 13/9/2007
Member States of the Council of Europe
Entry into force
Bosnia and Herzegovina
the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Source : Council of Europe, Treaty Office
Table 2: The European Landscape Convention, Article 1 – Definitions
For the purposes of the Convention:
a. "Landscape" means an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the
action and interaction of natural and/or human factors;
b. "Landscape policy" means an expression by the competent public authorities of general
principles, strategies and guidelines that permit the taking of specific measures aimed at
the protection, management and planning of landscapes;
c. "Landscape quality objective" means, for a specific landscape, the formulation by the
competent public authorities of the aspirations of the public with regard to the landscape
features of their surroundings;
d. "Landscape protection" means actions to conserve and maintain the significant or
characteristic features of a landscape, justified by its heritage value derived from its
natural configuration and/or from human activity;
e. "Landscape management" means action, from a perspective of sustainable development,
to ensure the regular upkeep of a landscape, so as to guide and harmonise changes
which are brought about by social, economic and environmental processes;
f. "Landscape planning" means strong forward-looking action to enhance, restore or create
Source: Council of Europe (2007c)
Captions for Figures:
Figure 1: Traditional May Day activities on a village green in Yorkshire, UK. All landscapes
have the potential to hold some kind of meaning, provide identity and benefit to the
Figure 2: Disneyland, Paris: does this represent a new cultural landscape?
Figure 3: Mutual moulding: Children in the North East Community Forest and a new cultural