Culture consists of learned patterns of behaviour and belief. These patterns are expressed in the physical impact of the use of environmental resources to provide goods and services. Every landscape can therefore be viewed as a testimony to changing methods of satisfying basic needs and the impact of current needs. Needs and methods are always changing and the way a landscape looks now reflects what people demand of it today, superimposed on how they used it in past times. This view of landscape is important to produce a sense of place because the cultural history of changing times is an important part of the mental scaffold we build around the environment to define our position in a greater scheme of things. This imagined place is a world consitituted and given value from the deeper past. The visual elements in it can be used to help answer the question why humans live together and how do they do it?

In 2004, an English heritage project set out to raise questions about the late 20th century's contribution of heritage. In a short pamphlet, the project, called 'Change and Creation', asked 'why wait?' It challenged the current orthodoxy within the heritage industry that places value, or assigns sites a designated protective status, only once a respectable 'cut-off' period of at least 30 years has passed. It rejected the notion of objective distance that underlies this rule. Indeed it celebrated subjectivity and personal engagement as important tools for exploring rapid, radical and most importantly, recent change. It stressed that 'landscape' is a mental construct, an idea, a feeling that anyone can create. It is not 'out there' to be identified by scholars or experts in landscape: it is something that belongs to everyone. 'Change and Creation' also rejected the common lament that recent landscape change is only loss: the removal of hedgerows, the hollowing out of town centres, the concreting-over of the countryside. These laments mourn imagined landscape. Landscapes have never been pristine, untouched or unchanging and the material of the long past is not better than that of the recent. On the other hand, neither should valuing the relatively new, lead to a rush to preserve things. A thing's passing is sometimes its cultural contribution. Heritage does not need to be defined narrowly as only 'that which we wish to keep'.

Linked Projects

Following Fish

Practical Conservation Management

Islands of Sustainability

Sunrise Coast