What is landscape?


Landscape is the reciprocal relationship between humans, non-humans, their place and their environment.

While there is not one simple definition or approach to Landscape as a concept, it is generally accepted as being the lived experience, and together with the activities carried out within it gives it its form and shapes those who live and work in it. Its importance in our lives can never be overstated. Landscape is ubiquitous and immersive and comprises a set of relations that are, for humans, cultural, social and representational.

The European Landscape Convention defines it as “an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors” (Council of Europe, 2000). Somewhat more poetically, John Wylie (2012, p373) describes it as “a concordance of life and land”…”interwoven as strands within a single yet infinitely complex fabric…a weaving to which all elements equally contribute“. 

We have provided a small reading list below which offers a starting point for just some of the different perspectives on landscape.  

House and church sit on a hillside in Italy with fog-covered mountains just beyond

landscape research

Landscape is simultaneously broad and far-reaching enough to embrace and cross a whole range of disciplines, whilst can also be down to a single individual’s perception. Its interpreted meaning therefore, is subjective and shifts according to the values and opinions of whomever is viewing it and experiencing it both physically and emotionally. So it holds tensions and can be contradictory depending on that experience.

Research into landscape is vital because it has the ability to contribute to, and drive positive responses to, some of the major challenges facing modern society such as rapid environmental change, as well as justice and injustice with issues of access and exclusion, ownership and dispossession within our communities and societies.

The position of the Landscape Research Group within this valuable work is to promote and encourage research and education in the field of landscape within all disciplines and perspectives.

Our detailed Research Strategy can be found here.

Donald W. Meinig

"Any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads."

a discussion

Aerial view of a marigold field, India.

your thoughts

Share your thoughts and images of landscape on social media using #whatlandscapeis and tag @landscape.research

The sky reflects on a monumental campus building standing in grassy landscape in Groningen, Netherlands


A starting point into perspectives on landscape.

Theories of landscape:
Howard, P; Thompson, I; Waterton, E; Atha, M (eds) (2018), "The Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies" Routledge: 2nd Edition
Fairclough, G., Herlin, I. S. and Swanwick, C. (2018) "Routledge handbook of landscape character assessment: current approaches to characterisation and assessment". Routledge
Wylie, J. (2007) "Landscape". Routledge
Meinig, D.W. and Jackson, J.B. (1979) The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays. Oxford University Press
Daniels, S. & Cosgrove, D. (1988) The Iconography of Landscape. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Ingold, T. (1993) 'The Temporality of the Landscape. The Perception of the Environment', World archaeology, 25(2), pp. 152-174
Antrop, M. & Van Eetvelde, V. (2017) Landscape Perspectives: The Holistic Nature of Landscapes. Springer
Olwig, K.R. (2019) "The Meanings of Landscape. Essays on Place, Space, Environment and Justice" Routledge
Thompson, I. (2009) "Rethinking Landscape. A Critical Reader": Routledge

Interpretations of landscape:
Egoz, S. (2013) 'Landscape and identity: Beyond a geography of one place', in The Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies. Routledge, pp. 272-285

Global landscape:
The approach to landscape research can also vary according to different regions and so the discourse can differ. These are just a few suggestions of further reading. 

Olwig, K. (2002) Landscape, nature, and the body politic: from Britain’s renaissance to America’s new world. University of Wisconsin Press.

European Landscape Convention, Council of Europe. Council of Europe (2000a) The European Landscape Convention. Available here.

Makhzoumi, J., & Pungetti, G. (1999) Ecological design and planning: The Mediterranean context. London: Routledge

Makhzoumi, J. (2002). Landscape in the Middle East: An inquiry. Landscape Research, 27, 213–228.

Makhzoumi, J. (2015). Borrowed or rooted? The discourse of ‘landscape’ in the Arab Middle East. In D. Bruns, O. kuhne, A. Schonwald, & S. Theile (Eds.), Landscape culture-culturing landscapes: The differentiated construction of landscapes (pp. 111–126). Wiesbaden: Springer Verlarg

Makhzoumi, J., & Grose, M. (2016). Landscape practice in the Middle East: Between local and global aspirations. Landscape Research, 3, 265–278

Makhzoumi, J.  (2016) From urban beautification to a holistic approach: the discourses of ‘landscape’ in the Arab Middle East, Landscape Research, 41:4, 461-470, DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2016.1156068