The Emergence Of A New Landscape

Rachel Butler



This negotiated study project questions the role landscape architects have in the preparation of management plans for Pacific World Heritage sites by utilising a mapping methodology to explore the potential outcomes of mixing conservation with tourism and exploring the role these have in the landscape.

The 1990s marked a turning point in how we view culture; this is when, following much debate over previous recognition standards, UNESCO criteria for assessing and recognising cultural landscapes expanded to include living landscapes or those which have been modified by humans. Such recognition resulted in an increase in nominations for cultural sites particularly in the Asia Pacific region, such as Tongariro National Park which before 1993 had only received World Heritage recognition for its natural values. The nomination of these sites brought about the new issues of how we interact with and manage cultural landscapes, where the values for which they are inscribed are not necessarily able to be mapped or otherwise formally identified. This also leads to problems when it comes to the management of the site, as it is a lot harder to design for the future when a traditional way of life still takes place on the site.

The 1960’s and 70’s were fundamental in the recognition of heritage but they were heavily focused on built heritage of outstanding architectural design or connection to the rich and famous such as monuments, buildings and archaeology, or what Richard Engelhardt referred to as the three P’s; princes, priests and politicians.(1) 1962 marked the birth of UNESCO’s role in landscape conservation, starting with the Recommendation Concerning the Safeguarding of Beauty and Character of Landscape and Sites which in turn led to the adoption of the World Heritage Convention in 1972. This convention served the purpose of safeguarding cultural heritage and providing protection and recognition at a global level. (2) The original convention document defined cultural heritage as works of man or the combined works of nature and man. It wasn’t until 1992 when this was officially adopted and the way UNESCO recognised cultural landscapes expanded to include organically evolved and continuing landscapes as well as associative cultural landscapes.

Sites are given World Heritage status to protect them for future generations to enjoy. The prestige of being recognised helps to raise awareness among governments and people for heritage preservation. But one of the key requirements of a site receiving designation is that it must cater for tourism, which often results in the commoditisation of culture or damage to the natural environment. Despite extensive knowledge about sustainable tourism, research into case studies including Tongariro National Park has highlighted the lack of integration between conservation and providing for recreation. Regulations must be imposed if the education in sustainable behaviour is to continue and the reasons for restrictions to be understood. 

Anne Drost in “Developing Sustainable Tourism for World Heritage sites” suggests that tourist codes could achieve a similar effect, acting as tourist management guidelines. She goes on to say that more work is required to identify appropriate levels of tourism, “although World Heritage sites are increasingly threatened by human intervention, their preservation may depend upon the development of a harmonious relationship with tourism”. (3)

While this is all relevant and important, what seems to be missing from the nomination is the recognition of the more intangible aspects of culture; the evolution of land over time, the stories relating to formation, the mythology and genealogy that trace the evolution of the people over time.

The case study for this project is a site nominated for World Heritage status as a mixed cultural and natural landscape; Fagaloa (Uafato, Tiavea region) located in the northeast corner of Upolu in Samoa. The site has been inhabited for 3000 years and was one of the first areas ofsettlement in Samoa. Part of its World Heritage designation comes from it being a living cultural landscape. The land is still worked in a traditional manner and they operate under the system Faa’Samoa (a matai-chief system governing body). The site has steep topography that defines access and village boundaries. Infrastructure is restricted to the confines of villages, road access between villages is limited and also comprises a large conservation area, home to some of Samoa’s most endangered fauna.

The project began with the mapping of three elements key to the project; culture, conservation and tourism. This led to the production of 12 management actions for the site and the start of definition of potential zoning. The next phase was a design investigation, exploring the transect between the three elements in respect to how some of the 12 actions began to manifest in the landscape. That investigation highlighted some of the other issues facing tourism development such as seasonality.

This process explored the key elements of the people and their culture including mythology and land use, the ability to further develop conservation projects on the site and the potential for tourism as an additional form of income for the villages at minimal cost to the environment. It then narrowed down to applying those three elements together on a site to observe how they function together, while exploring how some of those management actions would manifest on the landscape. The chosen site for that phase was the coastline of Tiavea, an area that had previously been abandoned in favour of higher ground due to risk of coastal erosion.

Application of the management actions to the site started to delineate zones across the landscape. But by factoring in the issue of seasonality in tourism, each zone started to reshape itself for multi-functionality and changed the relationship between them. In order to produce a cohesive design that fit for its place in Samoa, a degree of ephemerality was called for. This blurred the boundary between development and site, giving potential for the site to develop and change between seasons and from year to year. The final design accounts for conservation and the cultural values of place; including mythology, planting and land use by setting aside areas for the continuation of these practices.

By using the design investigation between tourism and conservation, the management principles generated changed after assessing the outcomes achieved when compared with the goals for the entire site. The final management structure for the site included objectives and strategies concerning development, landscape actions specifying design interventions to improve conservation efforts and policies that specify the development for tourism. While the final outcome for objectives takes on a similar quality to the normative management structure, it is the development of landscape actions and policies that suggest the value of the management plan. It uses design analysis and investigation to develop and test the management plan while also showing how it can be implemented.

This project has highlighted the importance of using a landscape-based approach in the formation of management plans. This includes the analysis and mapping of tangible and intangible values that are inscribed on the landscape, or as Patricia O’Donnell questions in “Thirty years of landscape rescue”: “Whose heritage is it? What values do they ascribe to it? How do the material, tangible heritage and the immaterial, intangible heritage relate?”. (4) The traditional response to producing management plans treats nature and culture as two individual entities. But in the case of Asian and Pacific culture they need to be managed as inseparable beings because the lifestyle of the people strongly integrates the two. Management plans have the opportunity to incorporate design into them, instead of generating them based on a World Heritage rulebook, using design thinking provokes deeper interactions between landscape elements. 

The outcome of this project hopes to highlight the importance of encouraging a stronger dialogue between conservation attempts and the ability to use and perceive tourism in a beneficial light, challenging the role landscape architects have in the management of cultural landscapes.


(1) Taylor, K. (2008). Landscape and Memory: cultural landscapes, intangible values and some thoughts on Asia. In: 16th ICOMOS General Assembly and International Symposium: ‘Finding the spirit of place – between the tangible and intangible’, 29 Sept – 4 Oct 2008, Quebec, Canada. Available from:

(2) Rossler, M. (2014). World Heritage Cultural Landscapes, 1992-2012. In: K. Taylor, A. St. Clair, N.J. Mitchell, Conserving Cultural Landscapes: Challenges and New Directions. Taylor and Francis. Available from: 

(3) Drost, A. (1996). Developing sustainable tourism for world heritage sites. In: Annals of Tourism Research, Volume 23, Issue 2. (pp. 479-484). Available from:

(4) O’Donnell, P. (2008). Thirty Years of Landscape Rescue. In: VIEW magazine, Summer 2008. (pp. 10-14). Available from: