At first there was Nature and all that she endowed man with.
The first homes were cave shelters that She provided for and man took refuge in them, eventually started living in them. He was learning, observing all the phenomena in Nature – The animals, the skies, the wind, the rain, the sun, the trees and the fruits that they bore.
He learned to draw whatever he saw, and improvised on whatever he drew. The first paintings were cave paintings that depicted various encounters with these natural phenomena. Man feared Nature, and worshiped Her. He believed that She was much more powerful than he. But She also protected him and helped him sustain himself and grow his family.
Eventually man learned to build from Nature. The first buildings were the huts that man constructed using mud, straw and wood. This was the beginning of Landscape Architecture. Man built with Nature, using the materials that nature provided him with. He built in Nature, harmonious with the natural setting. He formed communities, and these communities sustained themselves on what Nature had to offer – meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Over time, man learned from nature and began to control Her, and utilised his knowledge to create a constant supply of food.The first gardens were those which man cultivated to harvest food for himself and his family. The utilitarian aspect of Nature was more dominant than ever, though Her constant presence and the harmony of man’s creations with those of Her’s ensured that there was an equilibrium which was always maintained.
As his strength grew, in terms of both numbers and knowledge, civilizations were born although Nature still had a stronghold. Man learned to harness her powers more efficiently, and the practice of agriculture was born. The scope of Landscape Architecture now shifted beyond the home, and into the fields.
Nature was still worshiped, though, in some parts of the world, new gods were found. The first religions were those which worshiped Nature, formless, yet powerful. As man sought to attach a form to his god, newer religions were born. The two were not yet, however, isolated.
Gradually man began to attach a certain value to Nature, for he could control Her. The harvest that he cultivated, the produce that was in surplus, would be exchanged for something else. He called this ‘trade’. He search led him to distant lands, and the first explorers were born. Trade and exploration gave rise to a new commodity, wealth.
Nature gave to Man, the idea of Paradise. Nature in her bountiful beauty, at peace with herself , calm and serene. He learned to appreciate nature’s beauty, to cherish it and invoke emotions. So now, Nature was not only something of utility, but also something to be appreciated.
Man now sought to create for himself, this paradise, which until now, existed only in his mind’s imagination. Wealth gave him power. The first gardens of pleasure were those that were created using this new found wealth. Landscape Architecture was now all about creating man-made paradises – spaces that were created to appreciate nature’s beauty and splendour.
The concept of exclusivity now came into being. Man with power, and man without power became two distinct identities, and the absence of power led to the exclusion from the exclusive.
Landscape Architecture was no longer something that was inherent, but something that needed to be created. As power grew, Landscape and Architecture began to stretch away from each other.
Today Architecture and Landscape are two different identities. They are called Architecture, and Landscape architecture. Man associates different meanings to both of them. Landscape Architecture is what is needed to balance Architecture. The harmony still needs to be maintained.
Knowingly or unknowingly, there is a need felt for a visual and spatial relief from spaces that are characteristically man-made. This relief was earlier naturally acquired since man-made environments were not isolated from natural environments. Both were experienced simultaneously and harmoniously.
Architectural spaces have gained importance since they are the spaces where we ‘live’ today. But it is critical that we understand and accept the fact that if natural spaces, or materials, or textures were to become absent around these ‘liveable’ spaces, it would actually result in such spaces becoming ‘unliveable’.
Thus Landscape Architecture is what completes Architecture and architectural experiences. It is the science of balancing the natural with the man made, of amalgamating different textures and perceptions harmoniously. It is the art of creating spaces which need not necessarily be habitable by man, but will always be inhabited by some phenomena of nature. Concepts of Utility and Pleasure can co-exist harmoniously, and neither is more or less important than the other.
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