IFLA: Cultural Landscapes Committee

inventory > documentation

Detailed Documentation of a Cultural Landscape

A single landscape architect may begin with a specific historic landscape for a preservation project or in response to a threat.  The completion of a detailed inventory form may follow the international form prepared by the ICOMOS IFLA International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (see right). There are also inventory forms from several countries that may be of use for inventory planning (see right). The location, name and history of the landscape are gathered along with details of the existing conditions, ownership, access and legal protection.

The historic character of the landscape, and the degree to which that character is evident today, guides the research and documentation of the inventory, and contributes to assessment and planning for the future. In developing an inventory we seek to perceive and document the full range of resources that comprise the landscape. A useful approach is to follow a comprehensive landscape character-defining features check list as a guide.

This list directs attention to each aspect of the physical landscape:

  • Land Uses, Patterns, Clusters
  • Natural Systems
  • Spatial Organization
  • Visual Relationships
  • Topography, Surface Drainage
  • Vegetation
  • Circulation Systems
  • Water Features, Natural and Constructed
  • Non-Habitable Landscape Structures and Buildings
  • Spatial Character of Habitable Structures
  • Vocabulary of Site Furnishings and Objects

The tangible, character-defining features of the landscape, noted in this listing, should be explored in the archival research, historic period narratives, fieldwork addressing existing conditions, and exploration and selection of preservation interventions. Rediscovering, in detail, the historic character of the landscape guides the consideration of the future.

The intangible values and meanings of a cultural landscape should also be documented and understood. These values may include:

  • Location for festivals
  • Setting for traditional music, dance, performance
  • Route of pilgrimage
  • Setting for worship
  • Place of memory of past events
  • Place of traditional practices
  • Gathering place for native plants
  • Gathering place for craft materials
  • Traditional place for experience at a special time of year
These categories suggest intangible values. There may be other aspects of values that are relevant to a particular landscape.  For more information, see the UNESCO Intangible Heritage charter in the Guidance section or visit the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website.

Worldwide Basic Inventory Form

English | Spanish | French pdf

Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) (Inventory Form)

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. . .it is of the highest importance and urgency that, within each culture, recognition be accorded to the specific nature of its heritage values . . .

ICOMOS Nara Document on Authenticity, 1994