Nature as Dissonant Heritage

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Many former sites of land reclamation, where rivers and wetlands have been cultivated for the purpose of modern agriculture, are now subject to projects of nature restoration. In this context nature is often referred to as ‘the nature’ or simply ‘nature’ as it was something objective and self-evident. But who define and decide what kind of nature to restore? And is nature restoration not a contradiction in terms in our deeply cultivated landscapes? To examine these questions it makes sense to draw parallels between nature restoration and the concept of ‘dissonant heritage’ (Ashworth 2010), which concerns situations of mismatch between people and their heritage. The aim of the paper is to uncover the latent cultural dissonance in relation to nature restoration and to explain how landscape architecture could play an important role in the management of this dissonance.

If one accepts that heritage is not the same as history, but a contemporary product shaped from history, it is clear that the same area or object could be part of different heritages, creates by different groups of people for different reasons. Heritance logically and potentially involves disinheritance – our heritage is not necessary their heritage. As a consequence all heritage production can be associated with a degrees of ‘dissonance’ that involves a discordance or lack of agreement and consistency between elements used by different groups in their heritage production. Much the same could to said in relation to nature restoration. If one accepts that nature it not existing outside culture as something that be restored to its original state, but a contemporary product created and managed with certain objectives in mind, nature restoration like heritage production are prone to same kind of dissonance – our nature is not necessary their nature.

According to Ashworth cultural dissonance can be managed in a number of different way depending on which type of plural society is preferred. Many of these management strategies consciously or unconsciously involve some form of denial, neglect, destruction, reinterpretation or marginalizing. In these processes one heritage often end up dominating and suppressing other potential heritages or different heritages are tolerated and managed by separation. In projects of nature restoration this can be observed in the way that one understanding or reading of a landscape often is being foregrounded on behalf of others, or in how landscapes sometimes are zones to accommodate different natures. In both cases the heritage production or nature restoration divides rather than unites.

However, landscape architecture might provide an alternative approach to nature restoration that unites rather than divides, an approach that builds on the idea of landscape as a palimpsest. Evidence can be found in the project Renaturation du cours d’eau de l’Aire à Genève (2002-2015), involving the Swish architect Georges Descombes. In this project different layers of the landscape are activated to accommodate multiple readings of the landscape and to reveal rather than to resolves the cultural dissonance. In the paper the project will be used as one out of two cases in a comparative analysis.
TitelSPECIFICS : Discussing Landscape Architecture
RedaktørerChristiane Sörensen, Karoline Liedtke
Antal sider7
ForlagJovis Publishing
ISBN (Trykt)978-3-86859-299-3
ISBN (Elektronisk)978-3-86859-880-3
StatusUdgivet - 2014
BegivenhedECLAS Conference 2013: Specifics - HafenCity Universität Hamburg, Hamborg, Tyskland
Varighed: 22 sep. 201325 sep. 2013


KonferenceECLAS Conference 2013: Specifics
LokationHafenCity Universität Hamburg


  • Landskabstransformation
  • Landskabsarkitektur
  • Naturgenopretning

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