The ILCA (Integrated Landscape Character Appraisal) project was initially based on the idea that the integrated characterisation of a landscape, and particularly its dynamic historical evolution, is necessary to fully realise the potential of sustainable development in specific localities.
Landscape is a holistic concept where a range of disciplines and interests can find a common ground for discourse and action (Naveh, 2001; Tress et al., 2003, Butler & Berlung, 2014, Olwig et al. 2016). Yet, landscape and all the ideas underpinning it are place and culturally specific. The specifications of the most prevalent Landscape Characterisation methods such as the LCA and the HLC have been developed within the socio-economic context of the post-war UK and the institutionalisation of its planning and conservation practices (Sarlöv-Herlin, 2016) while versions of them have existed long before the European Landscape Convention (Sarlöv-Herlin & Fairclough, 2013).
Thus, although, they have influenced the development of many other similar approaches in Europe and beyond (see Landscape Observatory of Catalonia, the proposals of the Latin America Landscape Initiative etc.), they remain the progenies of the interests and values of a specific milieu, reflecting the thinking of the ecological conservation practices of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
The turning point to all the above was the European Landscape Convention, with the definition of landscape as ‘an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors’’ (CoE, 2000a). This shift on the focus of landscape from being a purely physical entity to being dependent on human perception generated a great deal of research that arguing and promoting a new meaning for it, mainly on societal and cultural grounds. Most importantly, this new paradigm provides a space for democratising landscape and recognise it as a common resource and a common good (Butler & Berlung, 2014, Dalglish & Leslie, 2016, Egoz et al, 2016).
Taking all these into account, the ILCA project begun by developing a theoretical and a practical framework for an integrated approach for the assessment of landscape character: an alternative pathway to comprehend landscape character, manage landscape change and support a type of landscape governance that could ensure the sustainable development of a given place.
The research had identified five main tests/questions against which to develop any form of landscape characterisation that can contribute to sustainable development:
Butler, A. & Berlung, U. 2014. Landscape Character Assessment as an Approach to Understanding Public Interests within the European Landscape Convention. Landscape Research 39:3, 219-236.
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Dalglish, C. & Leslie, A. 2016. A question of what matters: landscape characterisation as a process of situated, problem-orientated public discourse. Landscape Research 41: 2. 212-226.
Egoz, F. Makhzoumi, J. & Pungetti, G. 2011. The right to landscape: An introduction. In: F. Egoz, J. Makhzoumi & G. Pungetti (eds). The Right to Landscape: Contesting Landscapes and Human Rights. Surrey & Burlington: Ashgate. 1-20.
Fairclough, G. & Sarlov-Herlin, I. 2005. The meaning of ‘countryside’: what are we trying to sustain? In: D. McCollin, & J. I. Jackson (eds.), Planning, people and practice: The landscape ecology of sustainable landscapes. Proceedings of the 13th Annual IALE (UK) conference held at The University of Northampton. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. 11-19.
Herling, I.S 2016. Exploring the national contexts and cultural ideas that preceded the Landscape Character Assessment method in England. Landscape Research 41: 2. 175-185. Naveh, Z. 2001. Ten major premises for a holistic conception of multifunctional landscapes, Landscape and Urban Planning, 57(3–4),269–284.
Olwig, K.R., Dalglish, C., Fairclough, G. & Herring, P. 2016. Introduction to a special issue: the future of landscape characterisation, and the future character of landscape – between space, time, history, place and nature. Landscape Research 41: 2. 169-174.
Tress, B., Tress, G., & van der Valk, A. 2003. Interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in landscape studies: The Wageningen DELTA approach. In: B. T. Tress & G. A. van der Valk (eds) Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Landscape Studies: Potential and Limitations. Wageningen: Alterra Green World Research.