Landscape and Human Destiny

LRG's annual lecture, 2012

LRG’s second annual lecture was held in partnership with, and at, the Landscape Institute in London on 6 December 2012.

The programme celebrates the publication of the Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies, of which the presenters are all co-editors.


Professor Peter Howard, Visiting Professor of Cultural Landscape, Bournemouth University

From an understanding of landscape as historical revelation, the events of fifty years involved meeting the concept of aesthetic vision, and later with the concept of extensive scale. The European Landscape Convention attempted a reconciliation by its emphasis on landscape as a human right, and its extension beyond the visual. This has resulted in great emphasis on the ordinary meanings given to ordinary places by ordinary people. This developing concept of landscape is focussed on the activities of everyday life, experienced with all the senses. Contrasting intellectual writing with the landscape needs of communities, however, highlights the danger of the landscape concept becoming so intellectual as to remove it from daily discourse. One challenge for the future it to find ways of balancing people’s rights to landscape not with the rights of landowners, as in the past, but with the agenda of landscape scientists and conservationists.

Dr Emma Waterton, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney

Reflecting primarily upon post-phenomenological theories, the second part of the presentation will examine in more detail those recent developments within the field that are concerned with those senses of ‘the now’ – the ‘onflow’ of everyday life, as Thrift (2008) puts it – often left neglected by conventional understandings of landscape. Here, the idea of ‘everyday’ performance will be foregrounded as a series of sensory and affective acts that take place in the present. What this lends to the field is a vigorous and distinct way of conceptualising landscape in terms of the body, practice and performativity, together with an insistence that our engagements with it occur through a range of embodied dispositions and interactions. In other words, it insists that we, as researchers, become more attentive to different possibilities for knowing and doing landscape, including the ways in which it makes sense or answers back to a fuller range of people.

Dr Ian Thompson, Reader in Landscape Architecture, University of Newcastle

The final part will consider three of the cross-cutting themes: performativity, the nature-culture hybrid and the sense of a world in crisis. Performance theory regards the landscape as process rather than object, which has implications for planners and designers. Landscape architects and urbanists see their role as preparing fields for action and stages for performances. Underlying all of this, is a sense that human beings are co-creators of the world. In the field of environmental ethics, the debate whether nature was valuable because human beings enjoyed it or was valuable for its own sake is largely over. We live in the anthropocene age where it makes little sense to distinguish between a natural and a humanised world. For better or worse, it is human destiny to shape nature and create environment. Stewardship is back in fashion. Adding urgency to contemporary debates is a. prevailing sense of crisis with the terrifying spectre of climate change hanging over the whole issue. Producing, evaluating and articulating future visions is an enterprise in which all landscape researchers should be actively involved.

Paul Tabbush, Chair of the Landscape Research Group moderated the discussion.

Landscape and Human Destiny flyer

Landscape and Human Destiny flyer

Flyer for LRG's Annual Lecture 2012, with Professor Peter Howard, Dr Ian Thompson and Dr Emma Waterton. Moderated by Paul Tabbush, Chair of the Landscape Research Group.



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