The word landscape is a very generic term loosely used to describe all sorts of things. This can include what is called “The Urban Landscape” and “The Natural Landscape”. How much the natural landscape is natural is debatable as the land in most of this country in particular has been shaped by the hand of man. So if the natural and the urban landscape are all generated by man then what is meant by these titles that are used to define our surroundings.
For me the term urban environment is pretty self explanatory it refers to towns and cities, the urban sprawl. In our fast changing world with ever expanding populations, buildings and city layouts quickly become obsolete or outdated. Often they’re not pretty and are detrimental to the natural environment. They no longer serve the people who live there and buildings end up being left unoccupied or deemed to fall into the regeneration bracket. In a lot of cases towns and cities are “regenerated” without addressing the underlying issues or taking into account the views of the community that live and work there. A bit like papering over the cracks and even though they become regenerated it makes little difference to the gradual death of the town and leaves the inhabitants feeling ignored and undervalued.
On a positive note I do believe this is changing. Communities are being encouraged to take responsibility for and an interest in where they live which in turn gives a sense of pride, belonging and hope.
So what of the natural landscape? To me it’s the surrounding countryside, like the environment in which I live here in Yorkshire. Yes it’s natural, meaning that whilst man has shaped it by clearing trees for grazing and farming, it is green and growing, peaceful, not bustling with people, cars, buildings and concrete but bustling with wildlife and all those familiar things that we like to label the great outdoors. Maybe a better term to use would be the rural landscape as most of the land in the UK is agricultural and rural generally refers to this practice.
I don’t believe there are many truly natural places left in the world and of those that are I like to call them wild places, unexplored or untouched by man’s hand. Even the North and South Pole are occupied by man albeit sparsely. We have many places on the planet which are harsh environments to man, deserts, mountain ranges, tundra but truly wild places? Some, maybe but not many. Even in some of these harsh environments man has changed the landscape with irrigation and building. You only have to think of how potatoes are grown in places like Egypt to realize how man is constantly changing the environment and not always for good.
I love what is called “the great outdoors”, the natural landscape and over the years and through learning I have gained an appreciation of the urban environment. There are many towns and cities in the world which are as beautiful as a picturesque natural view just as there are awful examples. There are different fields within Landscape Architecture. Landscape design aims to create viable spaces which integrate the needs of the urban environment with the needs of the natural, hopefully in a sensitive manner. But as with most things there are good and bad examples. Whilst the title of my course is ‘Garden Art and Design’ it really is the study of the landscape and I have learned it is a complex subject encompassing many fields. There is a need to be able to work with a whole range of different organisations some of these being Urban Planners, Architects and Civil Engineers to name but a few .
What we need to remember is that regardless of what labels we give to our surroundings, these spaces all belong to one big environment, the world. All spaces have differing needs and it’s how we address those needs for the benefit of all which makes for successful places.