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The International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes ICOMOS-IFLA » The International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes ICOMOS-IFLA
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The International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes ICOMOS-IFLA

Founded in 1971, the ICOMOS IFLA International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (ISCCL) initially focused on gardens as designed landscapes. This joint committee engages experts and emerging professionals in the preservation of cultural landscapes from the International Federation of Landscape Architect (IFLA) and the International Council for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). IFLA is a platform for global exchange, sharing advances and co-learning within the landscape architecture profession. ICOMOS is the culture advisor to UNESCO World Heritage and a global network of professionals, practitioners, supporters, and organisations that benefit from interdisciplinary exchange in the field of cultural heritage. ICOMOS fosters scientific exchange and advancement through a series of world-wide ISCs with this one focused on cultural landscapes. IFLA supports exchanges through its professional practice network. This ISCCL shares and reports on its activities to both ICOMOS and IFLA.

In the early years the ISCCL was called the ICOMOS IFLA International Scientific Committee on Historic Gardens and Sites. Its first president, René Pechère, was a widely respected landscape architect from Belgium, concerned with the protection and management of historic gardens within the larger field of heritage conservation. Cultural landscapes were accepted as a category for inscriptions and defined in the 1992 by the World Heritage Committee and set forth in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. In 1999 the ISCCL change of name to the International Scientific Committee on Cultural Landscapes (ISCCL) reflected this global shift from a focus on gardens to the broader concept of the landscapes influenced by human actions where relationships and dynamic functions are constant.

Cultural landscapes are defined in the Operational Guidelines (UNESCO 2019) as cultural properties that represent the combined works of nature and of people. “Cultural landscapes are cultural properties and represent the “combined works of nature and of man” designated in Article 1 of the Convention. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal.” (WHOG, Annex 3, 47, 2019)

Three main categories are:

  • designed landscapes and created intentionally by people
  • organically evolved landscape, that may be 1. relict or fossil where evolution came to an end while its distinguishing features visible in material form; or 2. continuing where the cultural landscape today is a living place with roles in contemporary society, associated with traditions, evolution is still in progress and significant material evidence is present
  • associative cultural landscape that has “powerful religious, artistic or cultural associations of the natural element rather than material cultural evidence, which may be insignificant or even absent while the material evidence of evolution is exhibited (WHOG, Annex 3, 10 (iii), 2019)

Cultural landscapes are increasingly understood as complex systems where cultural relationships are developed within an ecological context, recognizing the mutual and reciprocal influence of nature and culture. The members of the ISCCL address the theory and practice of cultural landscape conservation from the broadest perspectives including: research; place-based and broader studies; community values and engagement; planning; legal regulations and traditional beliefs and controls; economic relationships; and more. We work collaboratively participating in advancing theory and practice.