Paisatg-e / Paisaj-e / Landscap-e / Paysag-e





Gardens, landscapes and responsibility

Carmen Añón
Landscape architect

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.

The return to landscapes, a concern that has always existed, has led us from the intimate and personal, always eternal and necessary space gardens provide to the public park, everyone's garden and a major concern last century, and finally to landscape's social scale. It has led us to see ourselves not as individuals but as a society, becoming aware that we are not alone. We are and are a part of a whole. This whole consists of interests and mutual knowledge, intimately related and so closely linked that, merely by talking, establishing dialogues, understanding each other, making concessions and interacting, we are capable of building a harmonious landscape in which our children can live and develop their full human potential.

According to Raffaele Milani: "The ideal of beauty stems from an aesthetic theory and can be considered a universal good [...] nature serving as the object of contemplation through which mankind understands and is understood." These two concepts thus intertwine, aesthetics and beauty. Nature can seem beautiful when it resembles art. "It looks like a painting." And art can be beautiful when it seems natural.

We have to become aware that our environment, the landscape that surrounds us, is a world of relations and pluralities. It is also one of ambiguity in which different sciences and interests intertwine, manifest themselves and understand each other: geography, ecology, economics, cosmography, topography, sociology, etc., and even religion, politics, tradition or legend, imagination and feelings. It's ours and it belongs to us; it welcomes and envelopes us. We have to return to landscapes in harmony with its conditioning factors and values, values which once belonged to a given culture but which globalization, Internet, television and film are beginning to turn into shared cultural values or at least familiar for broad groups.

In landscapes, all that is not visible is intimately linked with all that is visible. But it is not just a complementary accessory. Rather, it is like the structure that supports it: "An anthology reinforced by contributions from the gestalt and all the theories regarding perception which have an impact time and again on reality which consists of presences and absences at the same time, by elements which manifest themselves and others which hide but are still there. [...] We have to learn to watch what we don't see."

Humans are intimately related with their environments. They inhabit and live the space. This relation with nature is not in passing; it's a question of establishing roots. It's not just a simple place in space, but a shelter, a space for existence. According to Julián Marías: "The world is not just simply a world of things but the world in which we live. Its character is vital and circumstantial. Since mankind is not a prisoner of landscapes, these do not impose themselves inexorably. In mankind's relation to landscape, they are not restrained; rather, it is an expression of freedom. With this, human action assumes responsibility. A moral question thus arises, a declaration of civilisation, of style, of culture in our dialogue with the world in which we live regarding the vital areas we manufacture."

We are thus responsible for our landscape. Its recovery and preservation depend on us. We face an enormous challenge, one which requires considerable commitment because it involves all of us. For me it's not a question of creating "sustainable landscapes", a horrible world in the fully materialistic sense and incorrectly focused. It's a question of transforming or preserving and transmitting new concepts and values from elementary school to university, from public administrations to civil society, from moral to ethics and aesthetics. It's a question of coordination, balance, humility. The true problem is in directing our actions so that development is not achieved by sacrificing culture. We should not forget what Klingenthal warned: "There won't be a real solution to the conflict which pits modern man and his environment, the unfamiliarity with nature, more than in the field of ethics, that is, spirituality".

Observatori del PaisatgeNota: This newsletter is an initiative of the Landscape Observatory. If you wish to subscribe and receive it by e-mail please click here.

© 2023 Observatori del Paisatge / Hospici, 8 - 17800 OLOT - Tel: +34 972 27 35 64 /