Mapping the evolution of designed landscapes with GIS: stourhead landscape garden as an example
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Landscapes change because they are the expression of the dynamic interaction between natural and cultural forces in the environment. As such the landscape is a palimpsest that evidences many successive transformations by human interventions, changing land-use and management, natural succession of vegetation, but also caused by climatological and geological chances. Here the concept of the longue durée is crucial, understanding the landscape as a long-term and dynamic structure and process (Braudel 1966). The first level of dynamics is related to the natural environment and is characterised by a slow, almost imperceptible, process of change, repetition, and natural cycles. The second level of dynamics is related to the long-term social, economic, and cultural history. The third level of dynamics is that of short-term events, related to people and politics. In short, the landscape is an on-going development resulting from action and interaction of both natural and human structures, patterns, and processes that depend on ecological, socio-cultural, economic, and political factors. The related physical traces that time has overlaid can reinforce or contradict each other. Understanding of these layers is an important starting point for the management and preservation of landscapes, but also an important basis for new transformations or for adding a new design layer. In the field of landscape architecture the evolution of gardens and designed landscapes is therefore an important subject for design research.
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