Man and the landscape in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

Defining Landscape

There are various definitions of landscape available in the dictionary. They include:

  • an expanse of scenery that can be seen in a single view
  • the appearance of the area of land which the eye can view at

The Dutch term Landskyp and the German term landschaften are terms that lead to the derivation of the word landscape and refer to land altered by humans. Physical landscape relates to the natural environment and includes landforms, vegetation and climate.

According to Landscape Europe 'landscape characteristics can be dominated by natural aspects on the one hand or by human management on the other hand.' They describe landscapes as dynamic systems and regard them as being subject to change and evolution. This change and evolution tells a particular story and indeed history of an area.

'Landscape is the result of natural processes and human activities. While men can, to an extent, shape the landscape, the landscape is an important part of his physical and psychological environment and a pervasive influence on his activities.' (Aalen,F.H.A 'Man and the landscape in Ireland' London, 1978.)

Landscape also provides us with a framework to look at change over time and how these connect back to what has gone before and influence the future.'(Cooney, Gabriel: Landscapes of Neolithic Ireland', London, 2000). 'Ireland is a land where the past is ever present, both in the minds of men and in the landscape.'(Evans, Estyn 'Prehistoric and early Christian Ireland, BT Batsford, 1966)

There are many theories of landscape, however it is closely linked with the term 'cultural landscape' encompassing man-made changes wrought on the physical landscape. All of these definitions and quotes illustrate the close relationship between man and the landscape.

The definition used internationally in relation to heritage properties is 'cultural landscape' embracing a diversity of manifestations of the interaction between humankind and its natural environment. There are three definitions provided for the purposes of examining our Cultural Heritage.

Firstly the natural landscape has evolved over time and includes mountains, seas, rivers, deserts, and jungles to name but a few. Essentially this landscape cannot be defined or created by mans' endeavours, it occurs naturally.

Secondly an associative landscape that relies on artistic, cultural or religious associations of the natural element. Thirdly is the definition that is applied during this narrative, namely that the landscape has been clearly defined and created deliberately by humans. No matter the period of history, man has created and altered parts of the landscape to suit his or her particular needs and lifestyle

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