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60. January-March 19
Quarterly Newsletter of the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia

Cabins, a vital space

Gilles Tiberghien
professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics, University of Paris and National Landscape School of Versalles

Nowadays, the world is evolving at an ever-increasing pace and there has been a complete change in the landscapes that notionally typify a county as a result of the economic, political and climate-related transformations they have undergone. Our traditional landscapes only exist in a certain discourse of an essentialist nature. In fact, changes have gone hand in hand with the historical evolution of all our societies since humanity changes and so does its environment. But such changes are now radical; just as radical as the reactions they arouse.

Hence the need, expressed by some people, for meeting points, both to reflect on their lives and discover what might disrupt its course, and also to achieve the necessary distance for greater insight into the society in which they live. Seeking refuge in a cabin or hut is akin to these two impulses: it's a reflex of preservation but also a move to reconsider life, both in individual terms and in society.

Building cabins, our desire to build them, is closely connected with our childhood, a time of adventurous dreams, so far removed from the conservative caution that's a feature of many adult lives. However, we also know that children often dread being seen as "singular" and the idea of not being "like everyone else" can be unbearable. This latent contradiction is also present in the way cabins will be experienced, later on, by those who decide to live in them for a while.

A cabin can be seen as a refuge in a dynamic sense, as a source of projects and a place to pool our ideas. Joan Nogué talks of cabins as a place of contemplation and silence. Silence is necessary to think and to write, and contemplation is necessary to for us to act better collectively. Not even a hermit withdraws from the whole world but rather interiorises it in order to appreciate it better, to gain insight into its singularity and to help others live with its mutations based on its own logic.

Cabins help us to separate the landscape from those predefined images that very often take the place of what landscape actually is: a living being in constant evolution. Cabins help us to imagine this simply by recovering, from under its sedimented layers, those deep bonds that connect it with its history: we achieve a critical view which, by itself, allows us to glimpse the future of a community that's expressed through the landscape.

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