Dear Landscape? What kind of relationship do people in the Euregio have with their landscape? How do they perceive it? What do they appreciate about it? And what does this have to do with sustainable spatial development?
These were the questions that guided the research work of Dear Hunter by Marlies Vermeulen and Remy Kroese in the Dear Landscape Project. Answers to these and other questions were debated at the closing conference of the eponymous Interreg People-to-People project.
At 6 locations in the Euregio, where they lived in each case for a month in their living and office container, the two architects engaged in conversation with residents and visitors. In this way, they collected more than 200 landscape anecdotes and compiled maps around these anecdotes, which were exhibited on the day of the conference in the IKOB Museum of Contemporary Art.
“In Lanaye,” says Marlies Vermeulen, “the people identify strongly with their landscape, the Montagne St. Pierre. It is really THEIR mountain, even if it does not of course belong to them, but they feel proud and responsible for it.
In Heers we encountered a different picture: large private residential and commercial areas are enclosed by fences and green spaces lie like isolated islands in the landscape. Here the people would like to have an accessible green network that allows them to wander through the landscape.”
“In this project, we learned that what is important to people is not only the tangible elements – such as water, plants, animals, soil or the visible landscape, which are often treated by the authorities as protected goods,” said Anja Brüll, Project Manager of the Three Countries Park. “Rather it is the less tangible characteristics of the landscape, such as ownership structure and accessibility, scent and sound, expansive views, small but special places and histories or a ‘sense of wilderness’, which makes the difference in experience of nature and landscape. A good relationship with the landscape,” she believes, “is a prerequisite for sustainable spatial development.”
“All landscapes together form the global ecosystem in which everyone lives and on which every economy depends,” is how Ignace Schops, renowned Belgian environmentalist and nature conservationist, president of the EUROPARC Federation, member of the Club of Rome and director of Regionaal Landschap Kempen en Maasland, summed up the issue in his opening speech. “Here and now and with transnational cooperation as in the Three Countries Park: Let’s make Earth great again.” With this slogan, he earned a lot of laughs and instantly had the audience on his side.
Photos © Petra Vroomen