Accepted paper:

The articulation of tourist meanings in landscape design


Jaap Lengkeek (Wageningen University)

Paper short abstract:

Stories are part of the meaning of tourism landscapes. Narratives link the material world to human activities in the past and the present. In this paper we explore the possibilities to take existing narratives as a starting point for landscape design.

Paper long abstract:

Landscape is a dominant attraction in tourism, outdoor recreation, leisure in general and an important point of reference in local and regional identities. It encompasses not only space, soil, water, nature and human settlements, but also geological and human history, all linked to particular interests of living people. Because it is connected to a long history of events that influenced its form and functions, the landscape is 'loaded' with a complex meaning reflecting the present as well as the past. Different relationships to the landscape create and created 'meaning': functionality or the use people make of it, the perceptual impact it has on the 'eye of the beholder', the narratives linked to it and the modes of ownership. Design for leisure landscapes has been oriented to predominantly use functions, perceptual values (aesthetics; orientation etc.) and particular requirements formulated by landowners such as local authorities, tourism entrepreneurs and recreation management organizations (Brinkhuijsen, forthcoming). The narrative aspect is coming into view only recently. Narratives may consist of personal histories (the landscape of my youth..) and above all imply shared knowledge. In this paper we take the narrative of a defence line that has been created in the East part of the Netherlands. The line, a complex of concrete dams, harbours, water feeder and bunkers, located in and along the river IJssel, was built in the nineteen fifties of the 20th Century in order to inundate the East border in case the Soviets would decide to invade Northern Europe. The construction defence line stopped before its completion, but left many traces in the landscape. Local volunteers in one village turned elements of the line into a recreational and tourist attraction. The assignment taken in our project was: to conceptualise landscape narration, to apply this to different approaches to the same general story about the defence line and to find material figures of 'speech' for design in order to make the landscape and the narrative more or less 'readable' and understandable for visitors.

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Tourism and landscape narratives