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BY DANIEL ELSEA

Ireland's National Landscape Strategy makes clear the twining of land and national identity.

Ireland’s National Landscape Strategy makes clear the twining of land and national identity.

From the September 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In May, Ireland unveiled a National Landscape Strategy (NLS), in an attempt to establish guidelines for the governance of the country’s historic geography while recognizing its inherent dynamism. Getting to grips with a nation’s landscape in such an ecumenical, broad-brushstrokes way is a tall order, even for a small island nation the size of Maine. Human settlement has left its mark on the Irish landscape for nearly 10,000 years. It’s an old place etched with memories, from the craggy coasts of Western Ireland to the karst of County Clare to the genteel Georgian terraces of Dublin.

These all now come under the protective purview of Ireland’s Department of Arts, Heritage, and Gaeltacht (the latter word referring to the Gaelic language). The agency has committed itself to a 10-year program to implement the NLS, with the completion of a comprehensive national Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) within five years. “It encompasses all landscapes—rural and urban, beautiful and degraded, ordinary and unique,” says Martin Colreavy, Ireland’s principal adviser on built heritage and architectural policy.

Ireland, of course, is a divided island, and the department’s remit extends to the boundaries of the Irish Republic—that is, the three historic southern provinces. The fourth province to the north—what we call Northern Ireland—remains part of the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has drawn up its own “Landscape Charter,” which will complement this one, reminding us that politics is often a land-based proposition.

If boundaries define landscapes, then landscapes define identity. As the NLS indicates, this is Ireland living up to its European obligations as (more…)

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