2016 - Landscape Values: Place and Praxis, 29 June-2 July




“… landscape, like text, is a social and cultural production as well as an instrument of communication.”

Professor Pat Sheeran, director and co-founder of the Centre for Landscape Studies, NUI Galway (1990).
From ‘The narrative creation of place’ in Timothy Collins (ed.) Decoding the Landscape: contributions towards a synthesis of thinking in Irish studies on the landscape. Centre for Landscape Studies 2003, 148-62.


The Centre for Landscape Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway, in association with UNISCAPE, invites submissions from landscape researchers and practitioners interested in inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches, for an international conference to be held at NUI Galway, 29th June – 2nd July 2016.

Landscape is a multi-faceted, experience-centered phenomenon: perceived, conceived, symbolised and lived. The animation between people and landscape offers a perspective on place as a profound centre of meaning and locus of values, striking at the very heart of what it is to be human. To paraphrase geographer and philosopher, Jeff Malpas “human being is placed being”. 

Place is central to any critical discourse on landscape. Indeed, the landscape project, and the future for European communities and their landscapes that is envisaged in the European Landscape Convention, rests on the negotiation of the myriad values attaching to place. Of critical importance is how such values find expression and are considered in decision-making.

Arranging the contributions around four themes: Place Values; Places in Action; Place Thinking; and Place Governance; the conference aims to reflect and critique the journey of values from their genesis and expression in place, through how they are recorded and documented, to the position they command or are accorded in governance and contemporary social praxis.

All of the human sciences recognise the important role that the collective values engendered in place-making have in building and reinforcing community cohesion. However, a 2015 survey by the Heritage Council reveals that, in Ireland, the public rank built and natural heritage equally. In fact, though the gap is statistically insignificant, nature is ranked ahead of monuments and buildings as heritage. This suggests that the values associated with nature are not only scientific, that ecosystems service more than just the biological needs of society, and that topophilia and biophilia are deeply intertwined. In short, place has ecological dimensions which, in terms of management, can be honoured by initiatives such as Natura 2000, Green Infrastructure and High Nature Value Farming.

Typically, however, many of the cultural values attaching to landscape are expressed only in the languages of poetry and the creative arts. Though uniquely sensitive to the synaptic and protean nature of the relationship between people and place, such expressions are commonly deprived of their force and agency during the decision-making process. When it comes to regional, national and international business and governance, historical and cultural values are usually required to cede to biophysical and economic ones, leading to an inversion of value-hierarchies customarily associated with community projects.

Such has been the traction acquired universally by the landscape paradigm, that communities all across Europe are turning to the distinctive syntheses of natural and cultural heritages of their landscapes and home places to nurture community well-being and underpin sustainable futures. It is, moreover, becoming clear that community projects are playing a leading role in the delivery of the ambitions of the European Landscape Convention. What is equally clear, however, is that the organs of governance in many countries are ill-equipped to embrace, support and, moreover, benefit from this new reality.

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Place Values
This theme aims to consider how and why landscape becomes imbued with meaning and values in the creation of lifeworlds. We aim also to reflect on how the myriad ways that meanings and values associated with landscape are made manifest, materially and ethereally, tangibly and intangibly. Place values inevitably vary across individual life courses and are shaped by social locations such as age, cohort, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, and health status.

Whereas place or landscape values are multitudinous, human culture has invented a near-infinite variety of ways to create, express and celebrate those values, in music and song, story and poem, art, architecture, costume, landscape design and aesthetique, food, law, commerce and ceremony, to name but a few. This phenomenon is the bedrock of what it means to be human.

The growing appreciation of the therapeutic value of landscape, and increasing awareness among health professionals of the role that landscape has in health management is an important dimension of contemporary landscape theory and practice. Not confined to the recreational, contemplative and curative aspects of landscape, regard for the well-being of the biosphere has long been recognised as axiomatic to the survival of humankind. Indeed, setting targets for biodiversity is also a critically important values-based exercise.

Places in Action
The growing awareness of the connection between place and well-being, evident at community level across Europe, speaks to the traction that the landscape paradigm has gained. Precipitated by unprecedented social change, globalisation, urbanisation, depopulation of rural areas, food and energy security, and environmental degradation, communities throughout Europe are turning to their own ingenuity and resources; environmental, historical and cultural; to nurture and grow sustainable futures. In addition to showcasing community projects, sharing experiences and knowledge, social learning and other forms of action research, contributions to this theme may also focus on the mechanisms available to support and advocate for these ground-up initiatives.

Place Thinking
How researchers, designers and decision-makers engage with, record, measure, consider and speak or write about socio-cultural meanings and values of landscape has a direct bearing on how they are represented in management and governance. The tool-of-choice of many practitioners and authorities, Landscape Character Assessment has its critics, and in any case is only of use if appropriate mechanisms are in place to absorb the data into the decision-making process. Other methodologies, such as community mapping, offer even greater sensitivity to contemporary social attitudes and ambitions.

Place Thinking also refers to training and education of practitioners and activists. The organisers hope to elicit the experiences and views of educators on training methods and environments, and on the challenge of capturing and advocating on behalf of cultural and ecological values associated with place.

Place Governance
Reflecting some of the themes of the June 2015 conference on Defining Landscape Democracy organised by the Centre for Landscape Democracy (Norwegian University of Life Science) in association with UNISCAPE, papers under this theme should focus on analysing, critiquing, future-proofing and re-imagining the conservation and design philosophies and management mechanisms employed in landscape/place governance, at all levels, from local to international. Constructive critiques of the suitability of existing mechanisms of decision-making around landscape matters, whether based on balancing landscape services, on community based place-making or otherwise, are welcome. Spearheaded by the Burra Charter, the Conservation Plan process has proven capable of appraising place-values systematically, and of shaping governance accordingly, providing, inter alia, a potentially significant diagnostic and auditing tool.


Prospective contributors will be required to specify the relevance of their proposals to one of the above themes. The following list suggests a range of potentially relevant topics; it is not meant to be exhaustive.
• therapeutic landscapes • festivity, performance and landscape • community mapping • ecosystem services • landscape and the poetic imagination • ecocritical approaches to landscape • cinematic landscape • the European Landscape Convention • Conservation Plans • nature and landscape • historical landscapes • landscape observatories • place-wisdom • landscape training and education • Green Infrastructure • temporality • place-making • landscape and the life-course • memorialisation and commemoration • designed landscapes, aesthetics and the picturesque • landscape archaeology • community charters & covenants • shared stewardship • colonial and post-colonial attitudes towards landscape • High Nature Value Farming • landscape character assessment • national landscape strategies •

How to submit a Proposal (abstracts and posters):

Abstracts (not exceeding 800 characters) and nomination of one conference theme by 17:00 (GMT) 27th November 2015 using the online abstract form located on the Landscape Values: Place and Praxis web site hosted by www.conference.ie.

Contributors whose proposals are selected will be asked to submit an article (not exceeding 2500 words; not including bibliography) in English by 22nd February 2016 for pre-conference publication. Editorial instructions and style sheet will be supplied and must be adhered to rigidly.

Contributors are reminded of a requirement to attend and address the conference in person. Papers submitted for the proceedings will be withdrawn if contributors have not registered by 19th of May 2016.

Posters will be written in English according to a template provided on the Landscape Values: Place and Praxis conference website hosted by www.conference.ie. Authors of posters will be required to attend the conference and present their posters.


Registration for Landscape Values: Place and Praxis conference will open on 1st December 2015 at: http://www.conference.ie