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ACTIVITY OF THE OBSERVATORY

Landscape Catalogues

Criteria for making the catalogues

The making of the landscape catalogues is founded on the following criteria:

  • Conformity of the catalogues with international documents. They have to be coherent with the orientation and directives of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) and, methodologically, with the objective of identifying landscapes, evaluating their condition and defining quality targets which guarantee the continuance of their values and their transmission to future generations. Also, they must contribute to expressing, on the Catalan scale, the objectives of sustainability set out in European and International commitments.
  • Integrated view of the landscape. The catalogues are based on an integrated view of the landscape, taking natural and cultural components together, never separately. The landscape is understood in the catalogues as an area, as it is perceived by the people, the character of which is the result of the dynamic interaction of natural (such as the relief, hydrology, flora and fauna) and human factors (such as economic activities and the historical heritage). The landscape is also conceived as a physical reality and as our representation of it. It comprises the features of a territory with all its natural and anthropic elements, as well as the feelings and emotions which are aroused when contemplating them. The landscape is conceived in the catalogues as a social product, the cultural projection of a society in a determined area, from a material, spiritual and symbolic dimension.
  • Multiplicity of values. The multidimensional approach to the landscape takes the form of the multiplicity of values that characterise it. The catalogues are based on the existence of various values or types of values in the landscape (ecological, historical, cultural, aesthetic, symbolic), attributed by the agents who intervene in it and by the people who enjoy it. Any landscape can also have an “existence value”, attributed to it by people simply by reason of its existence, although not related with any use, either present or future. It shows an ethical relationship with the landscape and emerges from the “defence of the rights of living beings”, or from sympathy for certain elements which form it, such as animals in danger of extinction or fragile ecosystems, and not necessarily from an interest in keeping intact a resource for future generations (“legacy value”).
  • Qualitative methodological approach. As mentioned in the above section, this is one of the motives which explains why the methodology used to prepare the landscape catalogues is qualitative. Not all landscapes have the same meaning for everyone and, on the other hand, each landscape can have different values attributed to it and in different degrees, according to the agent or individual who perceives it. It must be accepted therefore, that there are methodological difficulties and perceptive differences with regard to the landscape which make it difficult at first to define a quantitative method of valuation of the quality of a landscape which is valid and accepted by everyone. It is for this reason that the landscape catalogues avoid any hierarchy of landscape on the basis of its quality and the quantification of its values, a very complex task – not to say impossible – insofar as the majority of the values respond to people's subjective perceptions or sensations an are incommensurable.
  • Application to the whole of the territory of Catalonia. The results apply to the whole Catalan territory and not just to special or exceptional areas. No part of the territory is excluded; on the contrary, the study includes marginal or degraded areas, the day-to-day – such as, for example, commercial landscapes and industrial areas – and those made up of infrastructures and facilities (airports, large communication centres, industrial buildings, petrol stations). The landscape catalogues, therefore, include all the territory, from natural to urban areas, including the rural and suburban, and internal and maritime waterways.
  • Applicability. The landscape catalogues have to be of a proactive nature, in order to be useful principally in planning and managing the landscape from the spatial planning perspective, while encouraging the integration of landscape into other policies which may have a direct or indirect effect on the landscape, such as urban planning, infrastructures, agriculture, cultural, environmental, social and financial. The definition of landscape quality objectives, therefore, must take into account the legal and programming provisions arising from the implementation of all these policies (regulations on natural areas, road planning, port planning, etc.).
  • Participation. Public participation has to be integrated as a tool in order to involve society and make it co-responsible for the management and planning of its landscape, and as a necessary element of governance for its sustainable development. As always, the tasks of landscape analysis have been undertaken mostly by specialists, but the European Landscape Convention insists on the importance of the public and economic agents, especially when taking part in the planning phases affecting the landscape, but also starting with its characterisation. In this sense, public participation in this phase will be fundamental in identifying those imperceptible values from an analysis of the existing cartography or from field work; these are more intangible values, essential to analysing the landscape in an integrated way and perceiving all its nuances.
  • Cooperation. There has to be effective cooperation between the various agents involved, both elected posts and in the scientific, technical and public ambit, in the territories where the landscape catalogue applies, and an acceptance of the different interests of each of these. In this sense, the development of the landscape catalogues has to be compatible with scientific rigour and the understanding of their contents and results by the people.
 

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