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What is a Cultural Landscape?

By Alana Coons

The Guidelines for Treatment of Cultural Landscapes define a cultural landscape as a geographic area (including both cultural and natural resources), that is associated with a historic event, activity or person, or exhibiting any other cultural or aesthetic values.

The four general types are historical sites, historical designed landscapes, historic vernacular landscapes, and ethnographic landscapes.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (CLF) explains, “Cultural landscapes can range from thousands of acres of rural land to homesteads with small front yards. They can be man-made expressions of visual and spatial relationships that include grand estates, farmlands, public gardens and parks, college campuses, cemeteries, scenic highways, and industrial sites. Cultural landscapes are works of art, texts and narratives of cultures, and expressions of regional identity. They also exist in relationship to their ecological contexts.”

Why are cultural landscapes important?
Cultural landscapes are a legacy for everyone. Benefits from the preservation of cultural landscapes are enormous. As with historic buildings, these special places reveal aspects of a country's origins and development. Through their form, features, and the ways they are used, cultural landscapes reveal much about our evolving relationships with the natural world. They provide scenic, economic, ecological, social, recreational, and educational opportunities, which help individuals, communities and nations, understand themselves.

Why is it important to protect cultural landscapes?
Unfortunately, neglect and inappropriate development put our irreplaceable landscape legacy alarmingly at risk. Too often the long-term environmental and cultural ramifications of short-term decisions are not understood and as a result we lose a unique portion of our cultural patrimony. The constant effort it takes to protect our nation's cultural landscapes is everyone's responsibility. Their ongoing preservation and interpretation can yield an improved quality of life and a sense of place and identity for future generations.

2007 - Volume 38, Issue 1

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