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The Cultural landscapes and gardens

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.

I have the privilege of being very close to a singular space: one of the most significant spaces in Europe, the Historical Gardens of the Royal Site of Aranjuez -without any doubts, considered as an important option by the UNESCO, until the present, and the only Declaration in Spain of World Heritage Cultural Landscape. And this opportunity to enjoy any of the walks brings out moments to reflect -one of the best functions that, to me, these gardens have.

Beyond the debate over parameters, criteria, and indicators that scientists, professionals, and politicians are usually concerned about, we should think more often over that other side which affects the social perception of landscape -on how the citizens see their own interaction with the landscape-. This idea encounters a paradigm within the Garden, in particular, in the Historic Garden: issues that harmonize and complement the interaction take place in a space where it is difficult to make a difference between garden and arrangements of the landscape. As well as being different, they also have one element in common: the action of the man, which through the time has given shape to the garden, and so the creation of the landscape. In this way, many elements turn up to minimize the often-desired interpretation of the garden, being taken as a museum, to be given self-functions for the active conservation through simple considerations. To me, though, it entails an important amount of values related to the social perception of landscape. Indeed, it is about assessing aspects such as the essence, image, aesthetic, joy and knowledge of the Garden, in its heritage vision, as cultural more than landscape.

Essence, because understanding the botanical riches and diversity of Gardens, implies taking the ideas of the time thoroughly and thinking over how they could affect gardened spaces. Nowadays, that essence allows the idea of development and sustainability.

Image, as a reflection of the main thoughts of a time. In Aranjuez, for example, the Gardens could be considered, in their origin, as one more room of the Palace, even though they are in the outdoors. Nowadays, they have this broad social and democratic use; they are a common place to walk through for citizens.

Aesthetic quite connected with the design, and with another very important specification: productive spaces are also taken into account, which give them an important functional characteristic of landscape.

Joy, because the colour, the smells, the sounds, in other words, the perception, is one of the most attention-grabbing landscapes we have in a garden.

Knowledge. The Historic Gardens are a laboratory in continuous research for evolution. In its beginning, the tree was often an imported element, not only to enrich the view but also as a study of the climatic adaptation and soil science. Nowadays, this function is complemented with the improvement of watering and sensible use of water.

These considerations, though, are lacking in importance, if they do not recognize at the same time, from the citizen's point of view, respect towards the cultural and natural values associated to landscape. This requires that educative function which is necessary to be fostered from organisms, as many organisms as they work with landscapes. It is, somehow, what gives validity, in particular, to the promotion and spreading of a territory, based on its own landscape values.

Luciano Sánchez Pérez-Moneo
Secretary-General of the Alliance of World Heritage Cultural Landscapes

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