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4-6 May 2011

Why Cultural Landscapes Matter: Our Culture & Nature Commonwealth

Conference: Why Does the Past Matter?
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Patricia M. O'Donnell
Peter Viteretto
Gregory W. De Vries
Sarah LeVaun Graulty

Cultural landscapes have a broad legacy as designed, evolved, relic and associative properties in the United States and the world. Simply stated, cultural landscapes are the combined works of humanity and nature. Those of perceived societal value are often preserved or mourned when degraded or lost. The initial paper in this session provide a global view of trends where cultural landscapes and the values imbedded in them matter to today and the future. In a world of apparent change, cultural landscapes provide continuity and a sense of place to our planet and inhabitants. Varied, unique cultural landscapes cover our globe. Recognition of the importance of these diverse authentic places, urban, rural, remote and archeological, is increasing worldwide.  Relevant global trends are:

  • Urban Dwellers= 50% & growing global city populace, City Landscape Valued

  • Earth Justice= Right to and Rights of Landscape & Democratic Access

  • Health & Food= Recognition of Local, Organic, Green Agricultural Landscape & Food Quality

  • Climate Change & Green Sustainability= Healthy Landscape as Mitigation

  • Tourism & World Heritage= Authentic, Unique Landscape as Destination

  • Culture-Nature Continuum= Landscapes are cultural and natural heritage combined

This overview explores broad trends, to frame the focus for specific papers addressing the values of iconic public landscapes, parks and parkways and modern landscapes. From a professional perspective the challenges of preservation work require stepping beyond personal design values and constructs and immerse in those of the historic place. Each designed landscape has an origin, character, design ideas and qualities that are unique, similar to a fingerprint, it is a Place-Print.  While valued cultural landscapes of all types holds interest, for landscape architects and all preservation professionals addressing the designed landscapes of our communities as a shared commonwealth is the focus of this session. In three separate papers, the realms of iconic public landscapes of our nation and states, of historic parks and parkways that have shaped our cities and the legacy of modern landscapes from our recent past are explored.

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