A landscape is nothing more than the physical characteristics of an entire area of land, how they relate to man-made or natural features, and how they blend in with the overall appearance of the area. Landscapes can take the form of a city, state, country, or even an apartment building. There are two major types of landscape designs; urban and rural landscapes. Each of these has its own specific design characteristics, needs, and limitations.
Urban and rural landscapes differ primarily in terms of scale and purpose. Urban landscapes tend to be larger and more confined, designed to create an open space for people to walk around in. Most often, urban landscapes are designed to include public parks, commercial buildings, and other amenities. This is opposed to a rural, natural landscape that would typically have a more simple design and less of design elements. In many cases, the entire landscape of the urban area is designed around the building it leads up to, while in rural landscapes, the landscape tends to be more open and free-flowing.
Both urban and rural landscapes contain soil, vegetation, rocks, hillsides, lakes, and streams. The difference between the two is often based on the purpose of the site. For example, in urban landscapes, many buildings are built directly onto the soil. This allows for greater water and resource conservation by utilizing rainwater and prevents runoff that could damage natural resources.
A cultural landscape, on the other hand, is considered a unique work of art and is created within one place in particular. A famous example of a cultural landscape is Central Park in New York City. The park is designed around a large staircase, which is then flanked by benches, footbridges, stairs, kiosks, and plazas. These different elements make up the level and texture of the park, while also expressing something about each individual character within the park. For example, benches mark areas where people can sit and relax, kiosks display information about the area, and stairs take visitors to different areas of the park.
One of the greatest challenges facing modern geographers is understanding how natural processes, such as landform formation, soil erosion, and climate, relate to each other. Cultural landscapes are created from natural processes in the earths crust, which geographers refer to as geological structure. Geologists believe that, overall, human activities have a profound effect on the landscape of the earths crust, while simultaneously providing clues to the formation of geological structures. They use this information to understand how human activities impact the world around them, in turn influencing the future of the earths ecosystem.
Landscape architecture refers to the application of landscape design to help improve the usability of a space through clever use of natural processes. For example, if a landscape architect builds a structure such as a basketball court on a sloping area, it will be able to serve the dual purpose of providing a recreational area for children playing and protecting the basketball hoop from damage from the ground. The courts will also be easier to navigate due to the nature of the slant. The same concept is used when considering building a cultural landscape, such as a garden or park. Rather than forcing a series of unnatural processes on a piece of land, the designer would rather integrate natural processes and design to create an aesthetically pleasing landscape.
Cultural landscapes provide another important insight into the process of landscape design; the relationship between the physical environment and the culture that reside within it. Landscapes provide clues as to the way people see the physical environment and how that reflects back on their lives. Landscape architecture gives a glimpse into how people experience the world around them and the kind of mental imagery that produces these mental pictures. It’s been described as a journey to the past where the individual sees the nature of the relationship between the natural environment, cultural heritage, and their own self-identity. Cultural landscapes provide a rich source of inspiration for landscape architects, photographers, and designers.
The combination of natural and cultural landscapes has proven to be very successful in modern society. As we continue to evolve into a modern culture that is ever-present in our homes, schools, public places, and even in our everyday lives, the combination of the two must keep evolving to keep pace. However, the present trend is toward more natural landscapes with less artificial features added to them. This trend is predicted to continue in order to provide people with a healthier mental balance and a greener past.