Maria Gabriella Trovato Landscape Assistant Professor, Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management Department, American University of Beirut
Every day, millions of people leave their countries in search for better chances in life. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), five years after the war started in Syria, 11 million refugees have fled across borders. 4.8 million escaped to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq, 6.6 million are displaced within Syria, and more than 212,000 people are trapped in besieged areas without access to humanitarian assistance. [...]
Francesco Vallerani Ca' Foscari University of Venice
One of the most significant aspects of the environmental system and the secular geo-historical evolution of most of the landscapes is made up of the coexistence between human settlements and inland waters. It is not just a valuable accumulation of suggestive amphibian landscapes but also a hydrographical network that requires urgent and appropriate interventions relating to the management of the flows, controlling water quality and the social use of riverside areas.[...]
Jaume Perarnau i Llorens Director of the National Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia (mNACTEC)
Heritage thought, created and used by industrial society was to become full, towards the end of the twentieth century in an identity reference. This in respect of contemporary society, together with heritage and the landscape that gives shelter and is mutually conditioned and determined. [...]
Bassima Khatib Assistant Director General at Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon
Hima means "protected area" in Arabic. It is a traditional approach for the conservation of natural resources that has been prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula for more than 1,500 years. Hima means "protected area" in Arabic. It is a traditional approach for the conservation of natural resources that has been prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula for more than 1,500 years. The Hima approach started with the tribal system and the need to secure their livelihood in harsh environments. Then, it evolved with the Islamic culture that added to it values such as equity, common good, equal opportunity and common decision making. [...]
Marta Tafalla Coordinator of the Philosophy Degree at the Autonomous University of Barcelona
Every year, when everything relaxes during the summer holidays, the media tend to bombard us with images of the Greek islands, Southern Italy and other Mediterranean paradises. Villages that care and retain their traditional air, fields tended like gardens, panoramic roads that extend to the horizon under the intense light of infinite afternoons [...]
Artemis Yiordamli Director of the Laona Foundation of the Conservation and Regeneration of the Cypriot Countryside.
In 1949 George Orwell published his futuristic book 1984, in which he predicted that the elite of society would rule the world with teams of unquestioning workers. He asserted that if you want to stop a society from thinking in a certain way, you should remove any word that describes a particular concept from its language.
As the Mayor of Olot I am highly pleased to have been invited to be the ‘observer' in this issue – and for two main reasons: firstly because this edition coincides with the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia and secondly because, since its creation, this observatory has maintained its headquarters in our city, and has been run by the geographer Joan Nogué, who himself is from the region of La Garrotxa.
Laurens Bockemühl Landscape Planner, Froelich & Sporbeck GmbH+CO KG. Co-ordinator of the European Academy for the Culture of Landscape PETRARCA
While growing up in the border area between Switzerland, Germany and France I was fascinated by the limits of the landscape as I passed through these countries. The immediate change in the landscape while stepping over the border between two states is a really astonishing experience. Something different appears there; a new, specific impression, although there are only a few metres separating both sides of the border. This character of the landscape can be experienced as a whole, however it is very difficult to keep hold of this wholeness in a conscious way or to describe it afterwards in words.
Joan Nogué Director of the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia
Exactly five years ago I wrote the only piece for the ‘Observer' that I have written in our digital magazineLandscap-e, entitled "Five years!" I have now written the second, five years later, on the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Catalan Landscape Observatory. If back then I felt euphoric with respect to the path taken since that 1 March of 2005, I now feel even more so, and there are many more things to celebrate: 10 years of the Observatory, 10 years of the Law on the Protection, Management and Organisation of the Landscape of Catalonia and 15 years since the approval of the European Landscape Convention, which is our principal benchmark.
Montse Guiu Director of PICURT, the Pyrenean cinema festival
For the fourth year in a row, a conference day was held in June as part of the PICURT festival, the Cinema Fair of the Pyrenean Mountains. Renowned academics and specialists took part in the conference devoted to reflection on the mountains, which was organised by the cinema festival and IDAPA, the Institute for the Development of the High Pyrenees and Aran, these included Eduardo Martinez de Pisón, Joan Nogué, Jordi Sagatal, Jaime Izquierdo, Pedro Arrojo, Joan Ganyet, Jorge Hernandez and Victor Viñuales, whose knowledge and scientific arguments have nourished debate during several conferences. They have contributed to help grow and support the values of the mountain and its inhabitants. This year's topic for debate centred on water as an essential resource for future strategies in the Pyrenees.
Simon Bell Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Estonian University of Life Sciences and President of ECLAS, the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the three Baltic States and the only members of the EU which were once constituent parts of the Soviet Union. Over the course of the century since 1914 they became independent from the Russian Empire, were taken over by the Soviet Union, invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany, reoccupied by the Soviet Union and regained independence on the latter's collapse. The landscape which is visible today has many unique features as a result of these different phases.
Ingrid Sarlöv Herlin Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Alnarp.
Scania (Skåne) in southernmost Sweden is one of the most densely populated and expanding regions in the country, with highly productive agricultural soils in the south, forested areas in the north; sandy beaches, small picturesque coastal towns and a gently undulating or sometimes flat landscape, rich in cultural heritage and attractive for summer tourism.
It's always been said that a garden reflects the society that creates and enjoys it. Landscapes are also the result of a people's successive history. However, mankind's persistent need for gardens has been transforming, from a nearly untenable goal at the dawn of humanity to its successive transformation, developing in consonance with society's constant and permanent change. That notwithstanding, it prevailed as a dreamed of, mythical and idealised image through literature, painting, music, etc. Slowly and subtly yet logically, gardens began changing in scale in synch with the times, but its frenetic growth has quickly accelerated in the last thirty years.
Carme Montaner Director of the Map Library, Cartographic Institute of Catalonia
Upon reading the recent publication of presentations given at the seminar, "Challenges in Mapping the Landscape: Territorial Dynamics and Intangible Values", organised by the Landscape Observatory, it is clear that we need to rethink the concept of maps and their function in our society, at least their role these last two centuries. Inexorable technological progress has allowed for millimetric precision in today's maps. And this isn't just a question of Internet which offers us the possibility of creating, combining and sharing a large amount of information with some sort of geographical reference.
Santi Vila i Vicente Ministry for Territory and Sustainability, Government of Catalonia
The geographer and anarchist, Elisée Reclus, had a significant impact on Catalan libertarian ideals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1866 he wrote that landscape is, above all else, the common ground through which human beings as both individuals and collective subjects are capable of recognizing each other. A beautiful thought, corresponding to a moment in time in which human activity's effective transformational power over the territory had still not gone beyond the tenacity of work and direct physical force.
Francesc Camp Minister of Tourism and the Environment of Andorra
During the 7th Council of Europe Conference on the European Landscape Convention held in Strasbourg this past March, I had the honour of presenting Andorra's National Landscape Strategy on behalf of the Government and within the framework of Andorra's Presidency of the Council of Europe.
Joan Roca i Albert Director of the MUHBA (Barcelona History Museum)
When industrialisation spread throughout Europe in the 19th century, transforming both country-sides and cities, concern grew over the blurring of our most deeply-rooted identities. This apprehension was spawned by the Romantics and served to nourish an interest in preserving the very elements which were thought to identify collective groups. This is how the historic heritage concept began to progressively expand. The cultural landscape notion would later be incorporated into the operational framework of conservationism, introducing an additional degree of complexity by changing from a focus on isolated elements to the relation between these elements.
Francesco Careri Researcher at the Roma TRE School of Architecture and Co-founder of Stalker and the Laboratorio di Arti Civiche (LAC)
"Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth [...]
And Earth first bore starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side [...]
After them [the children], was born Chronos, the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire."
(Hesiod, Theogony: 116-9; 126-7; 137-8)
A month ago, at the beginning of June 2012, my good friend, Georgina Regàs, responsible for bravely keeping the Museu de la Confitura (Jam Museum) moving forward and also an avid bird-watcher and admirer, turned the Presidency of Slow Food Empordà over to me with support from the organisation's General Assembly.
Mónica Luengo President of the International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (ICOMOS)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of UNESCO's Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding of Beauty and Character of Landscapes and Sites published in 1962 (how different our situation would be today if we had followed those recommendations!). This year is also the 40th anniversary of UNESCO's Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, novel at its time for associating the concepts of nature conservation and the protection of cultural sites in a single document.
Marco Tamaro Director, Fondazione Benetton Studi Ricerche
In territorial planning, agricultural areas are often seen as blank spaces, empty and free, susceptible to new construction projects and infrastructures. This trend is framed within a continuous, entropic growth process which has only accelerated exponentially since the end of the Second World War, with no end in sight.
Federico L. Silvestre Lecturer in Aesthetics and Art History, University of Santiago de Compostela
Some years ago Yves Lacoste tried to explain what landscape was for. If it is necessary to explain landscape, should we not also be asking about landscape theory? My own view is that, if it is badly oriented, landscape theory can become the most useless pastime ever proposed by academics (one of many, some might say). However, if it is well conceived, it can be of great value.
Land stewardship can be defined as a philosophy, strategy or set of techniques associated with the people who take care of the land. In all its forms, stewardship is a potent concept for encouraging civil society and local organizations to play an active role in the conservation and direct management of the landscape and its natural and cultural values via different forms of agreement and entente with the owners and managers (farmers, shepherds, foresters, etc.) of these landscapes and values.
Martí Boada Geographer, Naturalist and Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences
Appreciation for dry-stone walls is currently on the rise, and even though there is still much progress to be made, there has recently been a widespread movement to revive this important and popular architectural tradition.
Yves Luginbühl Agronomist and geographer, research director emeritus of the French National Centre for Scientific Research
Where do most people live? In general, they do not live in those landscapes that appear on lists of the most beautiful places in the world, as in the case of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most people live in landscapes that have been transformed by social activities, industry, housing, services and modern, intensive farming.
Tom Bloemers Professor emeritus Archaeological heritage and landscape (Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
One of the ways of appreciating landscape is to consider it as a source of research, action and innovation for its sustainable management by overcoming the divide between disciplines and sectors and between professionals and the public.
Toni Sala Writer, National Literature Award of Catalonia
The first landscapes were reportedly painted in the Middle Ages, generally portraying walled-in gardens. The outside world, however, was hidden behind those walls, horrible and unknown. The periphery was limited, as such, to those impenetrable walls.
Josep Cerdà i Ferrer Professor of Sculpture at the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) and coordinator of the PaisatgesonorUB Group (Laboratori d'Art Sonor at the UB School of Fine Arts
The landscape speaks. Our ears receive constant information, and sound influences our perception of reality. Everything around us emits constant messages which accumulate and make up our acoustic memory.
The publication of the book Paisatge i participació ciutadana ("Landscape and Citizen Participation) by the Landscape Observatory represents a great opportunity and it is a new contribution to a topic which sorely needs new reflections to update the concept and, especially, new practices to move forward on related issues. It's clear that participation is doubly-complex to manage: on the one hand, this is due to the explosion of variables implied in even simple analyses of landscape as the scenario for social life, and, on the other, due to the intricate network of the different administrative agents which make up the State of Law and Representative Democracy.
Joan Nogué Director, Landscape Observatory of Catalonia
In effect, five years have gone by since the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia was created. The consortium's legal and formal foundation occurred a few months prior, but its real, operational launch did not take place until March 1st, 2005. On that day, the Observatory's technical headquarters opened in Olot, a town in north-east Catalonia, approximately 150 km from Barcelona. Upon occupying the historic Hospici building, one of the city's most emblematic, the Observatory turned from a project into a reality.
Rafael Mata Olmo Department of Geography, Autonomous University of Madrid
The year that has just begun is the tenth anniversary of the ratification of the European Landscape Convention (ELC). For most of Europe and especially for Spain, the first decade of the 21st century was a period of great territorial change with negative consequences for the quality and values of many landscapes. Directed by the implacable logic of the market, the magnitude and speed of these changes, linked in good measure with urban development but also with processes of agricultural intensification and abandonment, have led to the belief among the public that such transformations are inevitable and shaped by uncontrollable dynamics.
Luciano Sánchez Pérez-Moneo Secretary-General of the Alliance of World Heritage Cultural Landscapes
A peaceful walk through the Gardens of Aranjuez is, apart from a healthy exercise, an opportunity to muse over the land in itself, about the different questions that represent a very important issue in the discourse of scientists, experts, professionals and politicians on the garden-landscape binomial.
Benedetta Castiglioni Expert of the Council of Europe. Department of Geography, University of Padova (Italy)
If the idea that landscape belongs to everybody, and is not owned only by politicians and technicians, nowadays is more and more universally shared, yet we are still at the beginning of the process of increasing people's awareness and responsibility towards it. Many times we talk about it, very few times we concretely act with this concept in mind.
Miquel Rafa Territory and Landscape Division, Caixa Catalunya's Social Work
The volume I now have in my hands is the latest addition to the "Plecs de Paisatge" ("Landscape Specifications") collection, Indicadors de paisatge. Reptes i perspectives (Landscape Indicators: Challenges and Perspectives), published by the Landscape Observatory with the backing of the Territory and Landscape Division of the Caixa Catalunya's Social Work.
Jose Manuel Vidal Architect, coordinator of Paisea
What is published in Spain and Europe on the subject of landscapes? What are specialised landscape journals and collections of books on the landscape like? What is their philosophy? Who are they intended for? Is there some relationship between theory and practice in the media published on the topics of the landscape and landscaping? Do these journals and collections of books have any influence on the community's perception of its landscapes?
Ramon Folch Doctor in biology, socio-ecologist Director general of ERF
In the early 1980s, the Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'Empordà (Empordà Marshlands Nature Park), splendid wetlands in the north-east of Catalonia, incorporated a former neighbouring agricultural area. Jordi Sargatal, the park manager, asked me to help to resolve the problem of the landscape impact caused by an old raised irrigation canal that crossed the area. In order to add two opinions, I turned to the fine judgement of Gaspar Jaén, a sensitive urban architect from Valencia, who was by chance in Barcelona.
Terry O'Regan Founder and Coordinator, Landscape Alliance Ireland
One night, five years ago, my old Opel Ascona was stolen from the street right in front of my house. The following morning, when I stepped out to go to work, I was left bewildered by the empty space where my car had been, not understanding what could have happened to it since the previous afternoon. The image of the car in my mind could almost fill the space, but the car was no longer there. It had disappeared!
Marina Geli Minister of Health of the Government of Catalonia
The state of our health is the result of a series of financial, cultural, social and environmental factors, some of whose effects have already been identified. These factors, however, do not only act individually. Rather, they interact and generate very complex phenomena which have an impact on the population's health. This impact explains the variability of indicators such as life expectancy found among the different European Union member countries.
Gareth Roberts Director of the Landscape Research Group in the UK
Many readers of this newsletter will know that most European countries have now ratified the Landscape Convention (CEP) but, how well is it being implemented? Looking for answers to this question has kept me busy over the past year , prompting me to organize a seminar in Sheffield for the Landscape Research Group, last November and since then researching good practice across the continent.
Biel Mesquida Writer and journalist, awarded with the Cross of Sant Jordi 2005 of the Government of Catalonia
My whole body had been assailed by curiosity for some days, but I had been smothered by the pressure of work, without a second for myself. What's more, domestic life, which I have always enjoyed, was stifling me. I had for days been wanting to touch the books, all those things that Aunt Diana had left me, which sat there silently, expectantly, in her library, that quadrangular room with Pompeian paintings of faded tree leaves on the walls, which opened up onto a terrace in the garden of my grandparents' family house.
Joan Ganyet Director General of Architecture and Landscape Ministry of Town and Country Planning and Public Works Government of Catalonia
In June 2005 the Catalan Parliament passed the Act for protection, planning and management of the landscape and in September 2006 its implementing regulation. Since then decisive steps have been taken in the implementation of landscape policies in our country and the regulating instruments envisaged in the Act have begun to be applied
NGOs for the European Landscape Convention. A veil of mist seems to dissolve the white frosted meadows, wide and flat. An unexpectedly powerful sun brightly illumines everything that is white. A half distant group of seagulls flies in a glittering performance towards something interesting, and then simply vanishes. On the horizon I discern some white house-fronts between trees. Besides these, isolated groups of alders, their feet in the mist, irregular branches silhouetted black against the pale grey sky.
Mikael Jakob Professor of landscape architecture at Ecole d'Ingénieurs de Lullier and in charge of the course in the history and theory of landscape architecture at Geneva University and at l'École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.
Imaginary describes what does not exist at all or only in the imagination, with no reality. Applied to landscape, the concept of imaginary landscape can however have two very different meanings: 1, the one radical, internal and dreamy, in the sense of a phenomenon existing only by courtesy of the imagination (an instance well defined by the German Einbildungskraft, the strength or power to carry or concentrate an internal image), without any intervention by the outside world; 2, the other, of equally strong interest, is concerned in the end simply with the landscape, knowing that – as a phenomenon – it only exists in someone's awareness
Jean-François Seguin Head of Landscape Department, Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development (France)
A report by the European Environmental Agency (2005) on the integration of environment into the EU agricultural policy considers that "the European Landscape Convention does not define objectives nor does it contain well defined instruments to impose respect for them". I do not share this assertion, far from it, but it has the merit of reminding us that today, every public policy must define its objectives and the indicators of its effectiveness.
Daniela Colafranceschi Architect, doctor of architectural projects and professor of landscape architecture in the faculty of architecture of the Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Italy
I have been teaching in the University of Calabria for almost twenty years that and, of course, I often move between the two strips of land bordering the strait which links –but also separates– this region from Sicily. With an approach inclined to the observation of phenomena, I have learned to read this landscape through its most basic morphology and the cultural references which have been imposed on it throughout the centuries.
Margarita Ortega Head of Division, Technical Office of the Secretariat General for Territory and Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment of Spain
The Council of Ministers has approved sending to Parliament the Council of Europe's European Landscape Convention, to proceed with its ratification. This step begins the procedures for the definitive adhesion of Spain to a convention with the category of an international treaty and referring exclusively to the landscape. The commitments it entails are a real opportunity for the application of active landscape policies, of singular importance in our country due to the wealth and diversity of its landscape, but also due to the innovative concept and the role of landscape when facing development in accordance to the potential and the identity of our territory.
Joaquim Brugué General Director of Participació Ciutadana Generalitat de Catalunya
Public participation is fashionable, but it is not just fashion. It is a requirement imposed on us by a more and more complex and sophisticated society. Today, matters such as the integration of immigrants, climate change and economic development, to name just three examples, have ceased to be strictly sectorial themes and have become multifaceted realities. There are no professionals on integration, climate change or development capable of telling us, as technocrats, what has to be done. It must be recognised, on the other hand, that these are matters which call for the participation of professionals and very diverse social agents.
Graham Fairclough Head of the agency's Historic Landscape Characterisation programme, English Heritage
Landscape draws on many ways of appreciation. For some, landscape is a question of beauty or of biodiversity. There are other ways of looking at it, however. With my archaeologist's perspective, I would say that a ‘good' landscape is an interesting one, one in which history remains ‘legible' so that the marks left by the work and lives of hundreds of generations of our predecessors can still be recognised.
Martha Cecilia Fajardo President of the IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) from 2002 down to a few days before writing these lines for our newsletter
I would like to thank the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia (an extraordinary cyberspace tool which aims to raise awareness of landscape issues in society in general) for giving me the opportunity as the IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) Immediate Past President to reflect on the profession. Looking in perspective my last four years as IFLA president, I want to take the opportunity to reflect on IFLA and the significance of landscape architecture on a global level.
Maguelonne DÉJEANT-PONS Head of Spatial Planning and Landscape Division. Council of Europe - DG IV
The Council of Europe (Territorial and landscape planning division) organised the 5th Workshops Meeting for the application of the European Landscape Convention in Girona on 28 and 29 September 2006, in collaboration with the General Secretariat for Territory and Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment of Spain, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and Public Works of the Government of Catalonia, the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia and Girona City Hall.
Riccardo Priore Council of Europe's official. Responsible for the drafting activities of the European Landscape Convention within the Congress' Directorate, Secretariat General (1994-2000)
In its provisions concerning the division of public responsibilities, the European Landscape Convention makes an explicit reference to the principle of subsidiarity and local self-government. On this basis, Contracting States undertake to involve local and regional authorities in the establishment and the implementation of landscape policies, the landscapes identification and assessment procedures and in the definition of landscape quality objectives.