It’s time for Brazil to preserve its cultural landscapes
The past, the present, the future and History shape cultural landscapes
Just as people, each plot of Earth is unique and this sensation can make us
feel far from or close to home. Earth is replete with these small pieces of land
which we refer to as landscapes.
Landscape is the material result of all change, be it social, natural or artificial that can occur in any given region. Prehistoric civilizations, extreme events (seaquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes), the actions of people in occupying the land spaces, the process of development, agriculture, construction of dams and urbanization have all shaped landscapes over thousands of years. In short, landscape is a simple evolutionary process, living complexity derived from the dynamic of different natural and cultural factors that interact and evolve together.
This relatively new Cultural Landscape concept has been defined fairly recently. It is the work of people. It is no longer free nature. Since it is no longer free nature, a cultural landscape may be a mystic area, a farmed valley, an environment prepared for veneration or even an area that man has prepared to pronounce his conquests and leave his mark.
Carlos Fernando de Moura Delphim
Carlos Fernando de Moura Delphim is an architect and landscaper graduated from UFMG (the Minas Gerais Federal University). He works with IPHAN as a technical expert on projects and plans for the management and preservation of sites having landscape, historical, natural, paleontological and archeological value. He is a disciple of Burle Marx and today is the preferred landscaper of the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. He has planned a number of landscaping projects for Niemeyer, such as the Latin America Memorial in São Paulo, the Supreme Court of Justice in Brasília and the North Fluminense University.
Carlos Fernando pioneered restoration of historic gardens in Brazil and is the author of the first manual for historic garden interventions in the world. Additionally, he prepares expert reports regarding sites proposed for the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Thanks to one of his reports, the Tropical Wetland Forests in Queensland, Australia, have been declared world heritage.
IPHAN (The Brazilian Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute) has defined Brazilian Cultural Landscape as a specific portion of Brazilian territory representative of the process of man’s interaction with the natural environment, in which life and human science have left their mark or assigned value.
I learned from the great Judith Cortesão that all which is natural is also cultural. Only human knowledge and culture can organize, understand and use a site where no man has ever stepped. Only man can assign values to a natural resource or a landscape.
It must be made clear that together with the genetic and material heritage and the legacy of nature, the means for understanding and making the features of these ecosystems disappear. This constitutes the human dimension and immaterial patrimony, resulting from the broad cultural plurality diversification inherent to Brazil. Biodiversity and this plurality comprise our real and most valuable heritage.
Origins of debate
The UNESCO Cultural and Natural Heritage Protection Convention gave rise to the issue of cultural landscape in 1972. The convention produced an International Letter, in which a dichotomistic, if not antagonistic culture versus nature view was expressed. Later, UNESCO, having realized its error adopted a more simplified definition for the Convention, removing Cultural and Natural and acknowledged the indivisibility of the two concepts, because everything that is cultural is based on what is natural and all that is natural can only be perceived and acknowledged by man based on that which is cultural.
Cultural Landscape vs. Development
Cultural landscape is not a compulsory statement made by governmental agencies. It is a democratic decision from the population, expressed in a perfectly democratic way; it is the willingness on the part of each group to protect those scenarios which are the most valuable to their communities. To answer your question, a declaration of Cultural Landscape abides by the transformations inherent to sustainable economic and social development and takes into appreciation the motivation behind preserving this legacy.
There are a number of advantages. To begin with, a Cultural Landscape proposes a systemic, sweeping, integrated and articulated action, involving not just a few governmental agencies but the whole community as well. The Cultural Landscape is an instrument that requires new types of action to protect the different elements that make up this patrimony, by calling forth and involving the participation of public and individual liberties. Suppose that each governmental agency out there starts conducting more scrupulous inspections. Regional products could bear a seal of quality issued by a cultural agency to demonstrate the producers concern with sustainability which would, in turn, certainly increase their value.
There are important landscapes from historic, artistic, geographic, geomorphologic, scientific, paleontological, speleological, hydrologic, archeological, agricultural, religious and symbolic standpoints. It can be all this and much more including plant and animal habitats, ecosystems, edaphic, mythic, sacred, ethnic, environmental and industrial sites, to name a few.
The Skies of Brasília
In my opinion, the skies of Brasília should be declared a cultural landscape for their awe-inspiring value. When I made this proposal some two or three years ago, mundane people, whose souls have no wings to take great flight, which can uniquely justify our fragile human condition, saw this as madness. I hope that they also consider delirous the UNESCO decision to preserve the dark and starry night. It is after all an effort, a battle against the increasing use of artificial lighting and gas emissions that have stolen the light of planet Earth. How many children have been born in large cities, having no idea where Venus, the Milky Way, Big Bear and the Southern Cross are?
In this instance, new legislation should be enacted to make it mandatory to use more responsible environmental lighting, to put up buildings in urban centers and control pollution. All these actions have stolen the Sky and the stars.
Owed to the lack of cultural agency interest, natural heritage was initially understood by IPHAN as being the bailiwick of environmental agencies. Only after IPHAN had understood that culture is much more than buildings, sculpture and paintings and after receiving full support from the Ministry of Culture, did it become possible for it to take on this responsibility.