Italian landscape: how it was, how it is, and how it will be

22 September 2015

The Italian Landscape and its great beauty: how can we reconcile landscape preservation and development to cope with environmental instability, uncontrolled urbanization, and agricultural land loss? This is the topic of the meeting organized by the Cnr on 15th September 2015 in Milan EXPO’s Padiglione Italia. Let’s sum up the results of a day where interesting ideas revolving around the Italian landscape and its development were discussed.

“Is still possible a balance between domesticated landscape and wild landscape? The regulatory framework currently operating often results in a conflict between the conservation of the environment, which itself is often late and limiting, and the needs of production. Those problems are often dealt by politicians without taking into account the opinions of every stakeholder. We live in a country prone to environmental disasters, with unauthorized buildings spanning from the mountains to the coast in both protected and endangered areas; in a country severely lacking prevention measures; on the other hand we have to deal with the so-called disasters with high costs, both in monetary and not monetary terms” Alberto Giuntoli, landscape designer, explains. He, together with Silvia Fineschi, member of “Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection” (Ipsp-Cnr), organized the meeting. During the meeting dedicated to the Italian landscape, experts from several fields have discussed this topic, analysing historical evolution, current status and future developments. Among the moderators Mario Tozzi,
famous geologist and science popularizer, and the historian Roberto Reali.

Protecting italian landscape

Massimo Osanna, Overseer of Pompei, Ercolano, and Stabia.

The Italian landscape isn’t indestructible; quite the opposite, it is the resulting victim of the transformation processes happened during its domestication. Nowadays some famous areas of the “Beautiful Country” (Italy – the “Bel Paese” as described by Dante), that fascinated travellers because the perfect union of nature and heritage, peculiar of Italy, only survive as collective memories. The barbaric invasiveness of innovation has been the reason of drastic transformation in the Italian landscape, often irremediably changing not just its appearance, but also the
complex relationship between man and Nature, a relationship that was the result of an history spanning millennia. Yet Italy was among the first countries ratifying laws to protect its landscape. The first law in fact was from 1922. After a difficult legislative path, the “European Landscape Convention”, approved in Florence in the year 2000, acknowledges that the landscape is “an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors”. From that moment on, the landscape is a unavoidable reality, both if considered objectively, both when perceived trough the emotions of an artistic or literary interpretation.

Our idea of landscape

Professor Paolo d’Angelo, Department of Philosophy, Communication and Show Business, University of Roma Tre.

In XX century the concept of landscape changed that least as much as real landscape did. We started from an initial concept that was mainly picturesque and spectacular, based in the idea of “scenery” and “point of view”. Along with this concept, since the sixties, another concept, opposed and completely different, emerged. The Italian landscape was identified with the natural environment, in contrast with the reality of a landscape that was strongly influenced by human intervention. This idea however didn’t overcome the fact that the very strong connection which remains between nature and history is quintessential in the Italian landscape. In recent years the topic of landscape has become an hot topic, thanks to a new way to perceive the landscape which gave to landscape a new definition and identity. Not only subjective, but also objective, as complex of characteristics that compose an irreducible individuality. A moving identity, not averse to transformations, but at the same time needing protection from out of context interferences and unjustified destructions.

L’intervento conclusivo con Eckart Lange e Mario Cucinella.

Trees and landscape: management and planning strategies

Professor Francesco Ferrini, University of Florence

An appropriate tree selection for the city of tomorrow is fundamental today, in a scenario where the global change won’t be just about climate change. It will be increasingly obvious that issues in planning, building and maintaining green areas in urban and periurban contexts have a “structural” nature. The last weather extremes, experienced in recent years, despite their diverse nature and intensity, allowed us to understand better what kind of tree species are more apt to be used in urban areas. Moreover, in the future the role of trees won’t just be aesthetic,but most importantly they will also be needed to hinder the effects of global change. Surely, this is a thorny problem that has to be dealt taking in account some historical peculiarity, but in a technical manner; also communication has to be kept in mind, since an efficient communication is becoming increasingly important to deal with the problems and to respond to expectation and requests from citizenry.

Creative empathy for sustainability

Architect Mario Cucinella

A problem that can’t be postponed any more is the existence of architectural models that completely ignore the nature of places, cultures, landscapes and energetic issues. Those building models have been able to transform architecture from an opportunity to a global energetic issue. The vulgarization of building models in fact has lead to an homogenization of the urban landscape and to apathy towards different needs. Consequently, this created a problem when consumption has become incompatible with local economies, causing levels of pollution
conflicting with people lives. Therefore the definition of sustainability has to take in account two different points of view, the first one technical and the other one regarding a new relationship between architecture and landscape: a creative empathy. In contrast with a model of architecture that is unresponsive to locations,sustainability is local by its own definition. Sustainability is against the homogenization ans simplification of languages. It is creating “value”, where “value” means giving an aesthetic contribution, a qualitative value, a belonging value, not only a value of a quantitative-economical nature.

Future landscapea: trends and challenges

Professor Eckart Lange, Department of Landscape, The University of Sheffield.

Our landscape is dynamic, it changes continuously. Man intervention is the key to such changes. As in the past, and as today, landscape in the future will be the consequence of our human needs and soils uses that are needed to produce food and energy. Planet’s population is still growing, and most people live in urban areas. Moreover, this trend towards an higher level of urbanization is still increasing. All if this while we are dealing with the challenge of climate change. Is expected that in the future natural disasters like floods or drought will be more
common, and, jointly with temperature increases, will impact heavily on plant life. Those considerations require a long-term strategic and original approach to planning and designing landscapes. In this sense, models and innovative imaging technologies will be fundamental to communicate how the landscape will evolve and to choose the right path.