chapter
10 Pages

Introduction

LANDSCAPES FASCINATE US because they speak through the language of visual observation of the age-old relationship between human beings and their environment. Our collective sensibility toward landscape, however, appears to be a relatively modern development in history, emerging among the European elite during the Renaissance. The idea of landscape took a long time to crystallize, during which it represented a wide range of political, social, and moral tenets expressed through painting and literature, becoming accepted by the 18th century as a notable aspect of taste. Although it declined in the late 19th century, when the divergence between science and art and the advent of photography removed it as a central cultural concept, it has continued to be important as an avenue of scientific inquiry-especially in geography-as an approach to physical planning, and, across a broader social spectrum, as a source of personal enjoyment. 1

Landscapes interest people in various ways. Most would acknowledge an elementary regard for "reading" the landscape in order to navigate through it. We live in physical space and our need to traverse it requires at least a fleeting attention to avenues and structures, their arrangement, and their interrelations in terms, as it were, of a road map. For many that is also the limit of their interest. For others there is curiosity about the landscape as an embodiment of the cumulative evidence of human adjustment to life on earth. In this sense, landscape holds an intellectual interest in offering a palimpsest of signs for II decoding" and analyzing our human use of the globe. And third, landscape can be a powerful force in shaping the individual's emotional world of sensations and moods, thus contributing an affective dimension to those of function and intellecU

What exactly do we mean by landscape? The ambiguity of the word is both its strength and weakness. Historically, the term dates from the

1 Middle Ages when it denoted "a district owned by a particular lord or

from the 16th century when Dutch and Italian painters used it to mean a representation of scenery, either in general or with respect to a particular view.4 In common parlance, landscape as a generic term can be understood to encompass all the visible world. A particular landscape is that characteristic portion of the world visible by an observer from a specific position. Implicit in these notions is the dual nature of landscape: as object and subject. This has caused no end of difficulty for both scientific and everyday use, since objective and subjective study employ methods usually distinct and largely incompatible. Another source of ambiguity lies in the need to distinguish between the area covered in the "scene" and its actual contents-the landscape's spatial extent and configuration, and the material features contained therein. Yet another ambiguity lies in the possibly different meanings given to landscape by those who live in it and those who see it with detachment-the dichotomy between insider and outsider.5 A final ambiguity is introduced when we try to reconcile individual responses to landscape with collective ones. Although it is not the direct purpose of this book to examine or resolve these intriguing issues at any length, a few points deserve mention.