What you don’t know about landscape architecture
I decided to dedicate my first article on landscape architecture. The aim is to introduce my profession and to contribute, in collaboration with many other colleagues, to its spreading. While in other countries the figure of the landscape architect is well known, in Italy, from where I am writing now, it is still a pretty obscure profession. Let’s introduce some basic notions of landscape architecture that can facilitate the comprehension of this topic.
First of all, we need to define what we mean when we talk of “landscape“. With this term, we identify a certain part of the territory, as perceived by populations, whose character derives from the action of natural and/or human factors and their interrelationships. Thus landscape is an essential component of the context of a population’s life, an expression of the diversity of their common cultural and natural heritage and the foundation of their identity (1). As an example, you can think of the Tuscan’s landscape, loved and known all around the world, and of which a lot of people knows the key elements that allow them to recognize it in a picture. That landscape is the product of a long agricultural tradition, in which slowly the man conveyed a unique and easily recognizable image. Let’s also think about New York’s urban landscape, where skyscrapers connect with the trees of Central Park, becoming an iconic image part of a shared vision. This late example is the work of known landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, that in 1856 defined a new vision for the city, to answer the necessity of that historical moment and to protect a good, the park, that could have been soon overwhelmed and lost by the expanding construction industry.
Thus it’s clear that the landscape is just the product of a complex and dynamic system of natural and anthropic relationships that define the characteristics of a place. The task of the landscape architect is thus to read the processes that allowed the landscape configuration, understanding the deep connection between man and nature and comprehending the “Genius Loci (2)”. The architect should propose aware transformations, in space and in time, to protect and add value to natural, social and historical characteristics of a place.
As we saw above, when we talk about landscape architecture we define a profession that deals with planning, designing and management of open spaces at different levels. Therefore, through studies and planning, the landscape architect plans landscapes to create new ones that meet the population’s desires, keeping into account sustainable development (3).
This complex and extended profession will have an important role in the planning of future cities, where changes will happen more rapidly and environmental factors will play a bigger role. Relationships between men and the environment will have to tackle the management of climate changes in urban and suburban environments, the protection of delicate landscapes and the creation of new development strategies.
- The European Landscape Convention. It was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 19 July 2000 in Strasbourg and opened to signature by the Member States in Florence (Italy) on 20 October 2000. It aims to promote European landscape protection, management and planning and to organise European cooperation. It contains the definition of landscape.
- Genius Loci. From Latin, the pervading spirit of a place. In architecture, it’s the expression to identify a phenomenological approach to the environmental study.
- Sustainable development. In the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (The Brundtland Commission), sustainable development is defined as the capability of satisfying the actual generation’s needs without compromising the possibility of doing the same for future generations.
To learn more on sustainability and sustainable development, click here.