Cultural Geography – Cultural Landscape Assignment
Cultural Landscape – the modifications humans have made to the environment. It reflects the culture of the occupants. If a different cultural group occupied that space in the past, there will still be evidence of their culture as well. Each culture produces its own unique cultural landscape.
A cultural landscape is an irregularity in the natural landscape that is the result of human interaction with the natural landscape. Sometimes this is a “built” environment and sometimes it involves rearranging the natural landscape. Each culture has central cultural forces, which result in leaving a different pattern on the cultural landscape. “A cultural landscape is an area that has … evolved over many years — perhaps over 100 or even hundreds of years,” Melnick says. “It doesn’t reflect one designer or person, it evolves from the needs of the people living there at the time, and results in built forms that give us a piece of our history.” The term “cultural landscape” was defined comparatively recently, says Michael A. Tomlan, Ph.D., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. “In a cultural landscape we see a series of human activities that have taken place on the land,” Tomlan says. “This gives us an understanding of the history that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Significance: Cultural landscapes give us a sense of place. They are part of any group’s heritage, and part of each of our lives. They reveal our relationship with the land over time. As with historic buildings, cultural landscapes are special places that reveal aspects of our country’s origin and development through their forms, features, and history of use. More than just gardens and parks, cultural landscapes may range from thousands of acres of rural land to a small homestead with a small front yard. Cultural landscapes include, campuses and estates, cemeteries and burial grounds, agricultural and industrial complexes, even rural villages and mining communities. They include nature that has been rearranged to suit humans, such as a park or a reservoir. Most of all, specific cultural landscapes are noticeably different for different cultures: a city in China looks quite different from a city in Europe. Cultures produce their own unique pattern on the earth. These differences in cultural landscape help us define our spaces and allow us to recognize the differences, as well as the similarities, of various cultures we observe.
Suggested Cultural Landscape Questions: These questions may be asked to help you “read” any landscape. Not all of them, however, may be applicable to any one landscape. You may want to ask yourself these questions when doing the assignment.
- Why was it built?
- What function did it serve?
- What types of structures?
- What size are the buildings?
- Is there a difference between the original and present uses?
- What patterns are there to streets? Can you determine corridors of circulation?
- Does the space encourage people to walk, or is it geared toward using an automobile?
- Are there any “anchors” to the development of the space? Some focal points in the area?
- What methods of transportation means do you see–any vestiges of left over methods?
- What types of people, age, gender and vocation, do you or would you expect to be in the area?
- What public facilities are there and how would they be used?
- Can you discern boundaries of any type?
- Are variable land uses apparent, both in type and in quality, bordering the open spaces?
- Notice the gateways or entryways. Do they seem to have any significance, especially on the overall sense of the place?
- Can you identify any special rules of human behavior in this landscape? Is it possible that rules have evolved over time?
- Take note of places for people to sit, especially around and near the center.
-from the website of Minnesota Alliance Geographic Education
Pick a small area in your neighborhood, including at least one or two commercial blocks. Do not do more than about four square blocks total, but include a lot of detail. Map it out, including the types of businesses, types of residences, style of architecture, signs, landscaping, transportation, and any other “built landscape” features. Use the questions and explanation in the introduction above in choosing what to map and how to present it. The map can be very crude, just be sure to label everything. The more details you include, the better. The map must include a color-coded classification system and a key. The map must be hand-drawn – no computer-generated maps!
Now analyze your data. Look at your map and try to interpret what you recorded. Just number and answer each question – do not attempt to make this into an essay. Be sure to address each part of the question, and always cite evidence. Then find some further conclusions based on your unique neighborhood. Be sure to discuss everything in the write-up that you include on your map. There are no right or wrong answers, so be sure to analyze everything you observe and do your best to explain your interpretation of its meaning. 3-5 pages minimum. (It is better to write too much rather than too little.)
- What is the socioeconomic status of your neighborhood? Upon what physical evidence do you base your conclusion? Be specific. Is there evidence of a past economic level different from the present one? Cite the evidence for the past economic level.
- Is there an ethnic identity to your neighborhood? Is there more than one? What is the physical evidence? Be specific. Is there evidence of a past identity different from the present one? Cite the evidence for the past ethnic identity.
- Is there a specific age group that appears dominant? How do you know – what physical evidence do you find? What does this say about your community? How will this affect the future of your community?
- Is there a focal point, something that identifies your specific neighborhood or ties it together? Make a guess based on where people tend to congregate or what landmark people use to recognize this neighborhood. Why do you believe this is the focal point?
- What cultural values do you find? What is the evidence for these values? Examples of values you might find represented are education, consumerism, leisure activities, religion, physical beauty, health, art, business, or any other social or cultural ideals you find specifically illustrated by elements of your particular cultural landscape.
- Is there a boundary to your neighborhood? This could be a recognizable border like a fence or gateway, or it could just be street trees that are the same in a certain area, but different in surrounding areas, or a common style of architecture. What does this say about the neighborhood?
- What one thing would you change about this neighborhood to make it a better place in which to live or work? Explain what you would change and how it would change the community.
- What did you learn about your community from this assignment that you did not know before? Did you notice anything for the first time while doing this assignment? Why did you overlook it in the past?
Add any other interesting observations you can make about your neighborhood.
Note: This assignment does not ask you to look up the history of your neighborhood, but instead asks you to OBSERVE and record what you see. Then you will use the knowledge you have gained in this class to interpret what you see.
Have fun with this assignment!
Grading: 10 points total
5 pts – map: attention to detail, accuracy, neatness; map relates clearly to accompanying analysis; map has color-coded classification system and key; map is carefully drawn and detailed.
5 pts – analysis: answers all questions in assignment in a thoughtful manner; attempts to discuss specific features of the neighborhood shown on the map; uses geographic terminology (from book, lecture, and/or assignment sheet); personal input about the neighborhood and discussion of new understanding from doing the assignment.