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New Perspectives for our landscape

DART, (Department for the Environment, Network and Territory) of the "G. d'Annunzio" University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy

by Alberto Clementi

A changing context
The Italian culture has been unprepared for the task of organising projects related to landscape. We have generally tended to defend our heritage through regulations for carrying out public protection measures. Change has only recently come about, through the influence of the European Union, as well as the effect of transformations both within the organisation of our government administration and in the relationship between the public and private sectors in the management of cultural heritage.
The situation appears both contradictory and fluid. Recent government initiatives seeming to encourage the alienation of state-owned cultural patrimony have caused an uproar and created alarm (Settis 2002). Interesting initiatives are coming to maturity despite these ill-considered provisions which mortgage our cultural heritage in favour of infrastructural investment and despite the debatable movement towards the privatisation of the management of museums and cultural institutions. In particular, regional initiatives seem to relaunch the theme of new policies for landscape. A new context has come into being following the National Conference on Landscape in Rome in 1999, the European Landscape Convention signed in Florence in 2000 and the consequent Agreement between the State and the Regions regarding Landscape Planning under the preceding government. These institutional commitments mean that several of the paradigms inherited from our long (and in many ways, dignified) tradition of protecting our cultural heritage will come under discussion and open new possibilities for landscape planning.
Overall, interest in all forms of landscape, not only those of particular beauty protected by the provisions of law 1497 of 1939, is finally increasing. Furthermore, we are beginning to consider change as a value, avoiding solutions that arbitrarily freeze conditions that have come down to us from history. Finally, we are discovering the importance of policy, i.e. the totality of actions, figures and resources which are necessary for preserving, maintaining or renewing existing landscapes. We can no longer simply have regulations but need forms of active management that involve, motivate and give responsibility to the multiple characters who intervene in a variety of ways in the construction of landscape.
These advances in landscape culture are not without pain. They encounter formidable resistance caused by enduring conservative and centralised administrative behaviour and by nascent philosophies of the devolution of management tasks to the private sector which threaten to have grave repercussions on the destiny of our heritage.
At this juncture, where contradictory processes of uncertain outcomes encounter each other, it nevertheless appears opportune to concentrate our research on questions of method that are still open. We must avoid letting the prospects of innovation become lost between the opposing tendencies of a return to order characteristic of our aesthetic-historicist tradition and a liberalisation that legitimises acritical pluralism. Unfortunately, this has been responsible for the Harlequin effect that characterises the history of our Regional Landscape Plans. There is a basic conviction that today's paths of innovation must overcome the artificial separation between regimes of protection and those which will add value. Innovation must be carried out by extremely diverse people and practices operating on the same territories. It invites us to think of landscape, territory, environment and society in an integrated manner. One turns to the plan and the project, rather than administrative provisions, as the basis for interpretation of the value of existing conditions and of quality objectives for transformation.
It is these presuppositions that inspired recent research conducted by the Italian Society of Urban Planners for the Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities, with the goal of translating the directives of the European Convention and the State-Regions Agreement into operational terms. Keeping in mind the results of research just published (Clementi, 2002), it may be useful to recall some of the focal points in Italy's current situation.

What is meant by "landscape"
Notwithstanding the fact that the context of reference has changed, there still remains - especially within the world of the superintendencies - a basically monumentalistic concept of landscape. Those cultural objects or portions of landscape which come under protection tend to be focused on and separated from their context (Gambino, 2002). Landscape cannot be considered the sum of existing cultural heritage objects. Cultural heritage involves the entire territory in a relational manner and requires strategies of articulated intervention, able to support and give value to recognisable differences within single local contexts.
Moving from the research of SIU, we can interpret landscape as an inheritance of identity resources, which can be understood through an accurate reconstruction of the processes of selective accumulation that have acted over time. This understanding requires a deeper knowledge of the endless interdependencies between environmental frameworks, settlement dynamics, day-to-day local practices and the cultural and symbolic values of the era.
As noted, this heritage is made up of differences and irreducible alterity, rather than overall unitary figures. We can hypothesize that this variety in landscapes may be reconstructed beginning from observation of the ways in which identity resources (of historical-cultural character, physical-naturalistic and finally social and symbolic) are combined locally. Through specific relational dramas that occur between culture, nature and society, local landscapes acquire those characteristics and qualities of sense which make them recognisable because they are different to other landscapes.
That which remains problematic - also within our perspective, which aims to liberate itself both from the false scientisms of systemic analyses and ecologies of landscape, and from the self-referentiality of the culture of experts - is choosing the right dose between the fertile subjectivity of interpretation and the values of the "truth of the text" that refer the internal structures of landscape to critical knowledge. Overall, the operative utility of the definition of landscape adopted by the European Convention still needs to be discovered: "a part of the territory, as it is perceived by the population, whose character derives from the actions of natural and/or human factors and from their interaction."

Strategies for protection and value enhancement
Attempting to manage protection and value enhancement separately, perhaps through the central administration of the state for the first and through the regions or private bodies for the second, contradicts the principle of landscape unitarity affirmed by the Community. Thus, artificial separations in management areas tend to be generated, with the risk of both breaking up the networks that dynamically structure the landscape and of producing unpredictable effects that destroy a territory's sense of itself.
Keeping this statement in mind, we must recognise that the graduation of protective measures is not to be understood as a mirror of a hierarchic concept of landscape values. This might induce us to deterministically allocate (and perhaps by decree) higher levels of protection to landscapes of "greater value" and unlimited and uncontrolled opportunities for transformation to those without particular qualities. The articulation and intensity of protective measures are rather the expression of a planning process that combines safeguarding activities, compatible development and planned renewal in relation to different profiles of the identity and heritage values recognised as characteristic of various landscapes.
We must avoid repeating the conceptual error committed by the National Framework of Protected Natural Areas law, which imposed zoning of the territory according to various levels of protection required. This artificially separated the regimes of protection from the overall planned regulation and management of admissible transformations within parks consistent with quality objectives.
Safeguarding, sustainable management and planned renewal are to be considered strictly interdependent aspects of a global strategy for the protection and enhancement of value. These highlight the specific qualities of each landscape and its difference to all others, thus allowing the realisation of evolutive opportunities judged compatible with established quality objectives. This approach is furthermore consistent with the main directives for sustainable development signed recently at CEMAT, the Conference of European Ministries for Territory in Hannover and which are committed to promoting locally integrated policies, intended to protect cultural landscapes, while simultaneously applying strategies of landscape protection, management and planning.
The ambiguous definition of the strategies in the State-Regions Agreement, requiring that "as a function of the recognised levels of value, each territorial area is attributed with corresponding objectives of landscape quality" can be correctly interpreted from this point of view."

The landscape project
As was recognised at the National Conference on Landscape, even conservation - not too differently from value enhancement - is carried out through projects (MBAC, 2000). At the same time, it must be understood that there is not and there cannot be projects of the landscape. Rather, projects may be formulated for the landscape, since acting on the landscape means intervening within multiple processes of territorial planning that involve numerous people, competencies and experience, all legitimate and qualified for modifying existing spaces. Each factor in modification, on whatever scale it exists, contributes to landscape planning. And landscape planning is an endless process (Macchi Cassia, 2002).
Is it possible that the heterogeneous multiplicity of subjects acting in various ways on landscape, combined with the dispersion of administrative powers, may result in a harmonious recomposition of a new contextual whole or the conservation of an existing one? It is this function that the project carries out, orienting the product of a multitude of individual activities towards shared quality objectives.
The main objectives of the plan will be maintaining ecosystem efficiency and conserving a representative image of the landscape (Caravaggi, 2002). We can assume that the representative ability of a landscape image will inform the restitution of historical values where possible; or inform the sustainability of transformation where necessary; and finally also inform the re-creation of landscapes where the original values have been completely lost.
But how can these assumptions be reconciled with the "quality objectives" defined by Article 4 of the State-Regions Agreement for the territories to be safeguarded? Once the values to be maintained have been identified on the basis of an interpretation of the degree of relevance and integrity of the landscape qualities to be protected, these refer to (Baldi, 2002):
a. the maintenance of characteristics, constituent values and morphologies, including as well architectural typologies and traditional construction techniques and materials;
b. identifying scope for development compatible with the recognised values, such that the landscape value of the territory is not reduced, with particular attention to safeguarding agricultural areas;
c. the recovery of compromised or degraded areas in order to restore value, or the creation of new consistent and integrated landscape values.
This is a formulation that attempts to adapt the strategies of landscape protection, landscape management and landscape planning, as defined by the European Convention, to the Italian experience. We must reflect carefully on these arrangements, since they reflect evident compromises within the commission that produced them. But we must keep them in mind when we initiate projects and plans for the landscape, at least for areas in which institutions for landscape protection operate.
In summary: how can the quality objectives which should inspire landscape projects be interpreted? In particular, how can we give clear content to the degree of relevance and integrity that define the value of the landscape? These themes, which were at the centre of the SIU research for the Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities, still need attention. Opportunities for investigating the links between quality objectives and projects are necessary, in a perspective that may lead to the proposal of an Italian and perhaps European law on architectural and urban quality.

Bibliographical References
Salvatore Settis, Italia S.p.A., L'assalto al patrimonio culturale, Einaudi, Torino, 2002
Alberto Clementi, Interpretazioni di paesaggio, Meltemi, Roma, 2002
Roberto Gambino, Maniere d'intendere il paesaggio, in Alberto Clementi, op.cit.
Cesare Macchi Cassia, Progettare per il paesaggio, in Alberto Clementi, op.cit.
Lucina Caravaggi, Paesaggi di paesaggi, Meltemi, Roma, 2002
Pio Baldi, Paesaggio e ambiente. Rapporto 2000, MBAC-Gangemi, Roma, 2002

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