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The Idea of Landscape: a Journey through the International Bau-Austelling Emscher Park

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Philip Harvey
University of Sheffield | UK
This dissertation investigates the concept of landscape in relation to
society, or if you will that which surrounds us. That which we
human beings create as the stage on which we play out our lives. When one
first thinks of landscape one might imagine Constable or Monet, beautiful
views of nature, but landscape has never been about nature, there is very
little of this planet that has not been mined, built on or cultivated. To
look at landscape is to look at what man has created.

Traditionally as an area of study this discipline has been viewed simply as
the reflection of what kind of society lives on and uses that landscape. The
landscape of much of Europe consists of agricultural fields. These tell us
many things from the type of food we eat, to methods of ownership and social

This however is a narrow view of the subject. To cultivate derives from the
Latin cultura which is also connected to growing. The word culture shares
this etymological origin and can be defined as the manifestation of human
intellectual and artistic achievement. Landscape is a cultural product, a
manifestation of a society's achievements and beliefs.

However it is not only the physical nature of the landscape but our
perception of the created landscape that is vitally important. Not only what
it is that we have created as landscape but what we believe it to be, how we
look at it. We can expand on our definition of landscape not as an object in
and of itself but as something which is perceived by us. Landscape is how we
look at our own surroundings and as such must be seen as subjective.

Only when we see in a truthful manner and understand the landscapes that
surround us can we begin to question where society is going. If this
landscape can be criticised in a provocative manner then assumptions in
society can also be questioned. The built (created) environment provides a
window on how to live an ethical life.

This project is also a personal journey for me, the journey to becoming an
architect and functioning ethically is also personally important.

Philip Harvey

A mature and measured discussion of the author’s response to the IBA Emscher Park. It is personal, but the nature of the
connections does not hinder the adoption of a balanced attitude to one of
the largest post-industrial reclamation projects.

References, both literary and artistic (ranging from C.D.Friedrich to
W.G.Sebald) are well chosen and pertinant to the cultural context. It is clearly constructed, following a geographic route back to a
point of origin, and is original in the breadth of its vision. The critical
position is considered in a delightfully ambivalent way, resulting in a
thoughtful meander through a physical and a psychic landscape which opens up
possibilities for future research in both the academic and design fields.

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