Territory and/or Scenery: Concepts and Prospects of Western Landscape Research

  • Marc AntropEmail author
  • Veerle Van Eetvelde
Part of the Innovations in Landscape Research book series (ILR)


Landscape has etymologically multiple meanings, hence a wide variety of interpretations and approaches to study it. The word originated in Western Europe during the thirteenth century, denoting both a tract of land organized by people and its visual appearance. The way the land was organized and shaped created a distinct scenery. Therefore, the landscape is essentially a holistic concept. As a spatial unit, it characterizes the identity of the land of a community and defines a territory where custom rights apply. Both territory and scenery are manifestations of local, regional or national relationships between a community and the way it is using the environment. The landscape also gives the basis of cultural identity and defines value systems. During history, this dynamical relationship changed and so did the meanings and ways of seeing the landscape. This resulted in different approaches in the study of the landscape and its visualization. We summarize the development of landscape research along these two dimensions, territory and scenery. We discuss how landscape research differentiated and diffused with the Western culture all over the world. Many of the shifts were caused by cultural differences, in particular, linguistic and semiotic, resulting in a growing divergence of interpretations and applications. Also, environmental, economic and technological driving forces steered the development of landscape research, adding new related concepts, new methods to analyze and new perspectives. In a globalizing world, the polarization and compression of the geographical time–space resulted in faster urbanization and land abandonment simultaneously, so all landscapes are affected. The demand grew for more proactive and applied research and transdisciplinary approaches to landscape management. Formal definitions, in particular, the European Landscape Convention, offer platforms for integrating all fragmented efforts.


Western culture Landscape disciplines Landscape science History Holism Approaches Ways of seeing 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Landscape Research—Department of GeographyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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