European Portal of National Heritage Organisations

European Cultural Landscapes

The Syndicate Group on European Cultural Landscapes was led by Hans Peter Jeschke, ICOMOS Austria. It was chaired by Bengt Edgren, Senior Executive Officer, National Heritage Board, Sweden, and the Rapporteur was Giorgio Galletti, Architect, Soprintendenza Beni Archtettonici – Firenze, Italy.
Mr Jeschke began by asking the Group what participants understood by “European Cultural Landscapes” and it was agreed that the term implied human, architectural, archeological and agricultural values but that there were also links between human history and natural landscapes which are constantly changing and developing. Participants established that a Cultural Landscape could include any landscape which had been influenced by human activity, but since it was not possible to protect every landscape, it was important to develop a method of prioritising.
It was suggested that Salz-Kammergut, the Lake District (UK) and Dessau W├Ârlitz (Germany) were examples of European Cultural Landscapes which were recognised as being of international importance. It was considered, however, that there were other important landscapes which were not protected by any international agency. For example, according to one participant, the Tuscan landscape (Italy) had been greatly affected by regional legislation, which had led farmers to change the system of vine cultivation. This had not only affected the landscape, but had changed the ecological balance.
The discussion highlighted many different experiences from throughout Europe with regard to how European Cultural Landscapes should be defined. According to Mr Jeschke, there were already lists of Cultural Landscapes in Poland, Austria and Slovenia. In the UK, it was agreed that it was very important for the local community to be involved in the decision making process because cultural heritage could only be preserved if the local people wanted to protect it. Some communities in Germany, on the other hand, had decided that the economic development of their area should take preference to preservation of heritage. It was concluded that a high priority should be given to raising public awareness to ensure that local communities learnt to value their heritage and to understand that this does not necessarily oppose economic development. It was pointed out that if the local communities were to be consulted, the authorities had to accept that sometimes the opinion received would not always be what they might wish.
Further discussion revealed that much work had already been done on identifying areas to be protected in European countries. However, each country had a different planning system, and so areas which had been identified as in need of protection vary greatly in size and the type of features they include. Local authorities in many areas throughout Europe already represented cultural areas whose geographic borders had been defined historically according to geographic or geological features, vernacular buildings, farming practices etc. It was agreed that information existed at a local level with local conservation offices, archaeological groups, planing officer etc. and they could be provided with guidelines to help them draw this information together on a trans-European scale.
Mr Jeschke believed that it was important for every cultural landscape to be recognised not only by the local people, but by the local administration which had the power to transform or to preserve them. More important, added Mr Jeschke, was to develop a land use management plan at international or national level for the future conservation of cultural landscapes.
It was concluded that a network of similar cultural landscapes across Europe would establish solidarity and enable an exchange of experience to tackle common problems. ENNHO and the European Exchange Programme, it was agreed, already provided such a framework and it was important for the partnerships resulting from this to be developed in the future. The main aim of these partnerships and exchanges could focus on raising public awareness of the importance of cultural landscapes.