The study and application of cultural landscapes within the preservation movement has become an important, yet not widely practiced, development in the field. Cultural landscapes allow us to see, interpret and experience places that emphasize the interaction between human beings and nature over time. They provide a comprehensive and contextual perspective of historic places situated within their environment; rather than looking at an individual structure, cultural landscapes seek to understand how that structure connects to the world around it. Because most of our environment is shaped by people, cultural landscapes are broadly defined and can include places like cemeteries, ranch lands and farmsteads, public parks and entire historic districts (just to name a few!).
According to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, these places “provide scenic, economic, ecological, social, recreational, and educational opportunities helping communities to better understand themselves.” Growth, development and neglect, along with a lack of public awareness and understanding, jeopardize these important places in Texas, whether they be a working ranch, a scenic highway or an urban designed park. So much of Texas, historically and present, is defined by people’s relationship to the land. Cultural landscapes hold great potential as progressive and powerful tools for communities to not only understand themselves, but to enhance their quality of life.
Issues to Explore
- Cultural landscapes are an endangered resource in Texas. From historic ranches, agricultural lands and farmsteads being lost to development around urban centers, to cemeteries that no-one knows their whereabouts; the diversity of type and threat to cultural landscapes is vast and varied.
- The majority of land in Texas is privately owned, adding to the challenge of identifying and preserving important cultural landscapes throughout the state.
- The sheer size of Texas and its distinct regional geographies.
- Raising the level of awareness of a cultural landscape perspective, to preservation professionals and the general public.
- Lack of a cultural landscape initiative or program in Texas to provide assistance, resources and raise awareness.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation
Preservation Brief 36: Protecting Cultural Landscapes
Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation
Historic Landscapes, National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation
Massachusetts’ Historic Landscape Preservation Program