A culture:nature journey

As part of the 19th ICOMOS General Assembly and Scientific Symposium in Delhi I am co-covening a session with Chris Dunn on A Spectrum of Culture and Nature – From Abandoned Buildings to Wilderness” This session will explore the nexus of culture and nature by considering how ideas of wildness,  wilderness, authenticity, and decline form important counterpoints to reconstruction and restoration, from both cultural and natural heritage perspectives, as well as how culture fits into wilderness landscapes.

An example of the former is the gradual process of change on abandoned archaeological sites, which is often considered an acceptable conservation approach. Here cultural heritage ‘returns’ to the earth, and from a natural heritage perspective nature ‘reclaims’ landscapes and sites. However, this approach is contrasted by post-disaster recovery (from both natural and manmade disasters) in which reconstruction is seen as an important element of the ‘healing’ process (and is a current focus for both ICOMOS and UNESCO). An example of the latter is the rich symbolic and material relationships that people form with wilderness landscapes, settings where parallel debates surround ecological restoration and maintenance of cultural resources. The session will consider the broad implications of these different approaches within the culture:nature nexus.

The aims of the session are to:

  • Consider the different approaches to abandonment and conservation of cultural and natural heritage
  • Engage critically with approaches to authenticity, materiality and ecology – considering how they impact on the processes of cultural and natural heritage management

and to:

  • Reflect on philosophical considerations relating to values of wilderness and cultural landscapes, considering the conflicts and issues that arise within the broad culture: nature nexus


Beyond the session I’ve been struck by the connections between culture:nature and nature:culture from my very preliminary explorations of Delhi over the last few days – for example wildlife in historic buildings, graffiti on trees, and trees growing through and now part of streetscape and buildings.


About Louise Cooke

conservation, heritage, landscapes, earth buildings and other interesting things
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