Geographer Otto Schlüter is credited with having first formally used “cultural landscape” as an academic term in the early 20th century. He defined two forms of landscape: the Urlandschaft (transl. original landscape) or landscape that existed before major human induced changes and the Kulturlandschaft (transl. ‘cultural landscape’) a landscape created by human culture. The major task of geography was to trace the changes in these two landscapes.
It was Carl O. Sauer, a human geographer, who was probably the most influential in promoting and developing the idea of cultural landscapes. Sauer was determined to stress the agency of culture as a force in shaping the visible features of the Earth’s surface in delimited areas. Within his definition, the physical environment retains a central significance, as the medium with and through which human cultures act. His classic definition of a ‘cultural landscape’ reads as follows:
“The cultural landscape is fashioned from a natural landscape by a cultural group. Culture is the agent, the natural area is the medium, the cultural landscape is the result.”
A 2006 academic review of the combined efforts of the World Heritage Committee, multiple specialists around the world, and nations to update and apply the concept of ‘cultural landscapes’, observed and concluded that:
“Although the concept of landscape has been unhooked for some time from its original art associations … there is still a dominant view of landscapes as an inscribed surface, akin to a map or a text, from which cultural meaning and social forms can simply be read.”
Make art about a cultural landscape, on reading cultural meaning in the shaping of land.