Landscape And The Enlightenment Essay, Research Paper
Landscape and the enlightenmentIt is interesting to see how the landscape can be physically altered just because of the cultural revolution know as the Enlightenment. While many European countries underwent major transformations during the Renaissance period of the 13th to 17th centuries, it had a specific impact on each nation politically, cultural, and environmentally. During this age of enlightenment, two countries in particular, Italy and France, had undergone drastic changes which can be visibly seen through its impact on the surrounding lands. Italy experienced it s Renaissance in the 13th to 16th century, which generally had a dissimilar result, in respect to landscape design, than the French Renaissance of the 17th century. More specifically, the Renaissance led to alterations in the culture of these two European countries which affected the theory, context, and elements of landscape design. It is necessary to understand the environment and climate to fully discern what natural limitations lie within the landscape. In Italy, the climate is hot and dry with a generally bright sun overhead and well drained soil below. Most of the land is steep, rocky terrain with sparse tree cover. The main way in which these factors affected design was that terraces were necessary to do any sort of building on these hills. The climate only allowed certain types of plants and trees to be planted in the well drained soil. The lands of France are entirely opposite. The climate is humid with a moderate sun over the very flat, almost rolling, land. The areas were densely wooded and the soil was often moist or boggy. This, too, placed limitations on what could be done with the land, but as was shown by the new political monarchy, nothing would stand in the way of achieving the perfect garden; not even nature. The types of buildings that were constructed on these two contrasted lands were directly correlated to the surrounding environments in which they lie. For instance, it would be unwise to erect a terrace like home on a relatively flat piece of land, as would it be to build a monumental palace on a hillside. Specific cultural contexts affected the landscape design in these newly enlightened countries. In Italy, the “Great Awakening”, brought upon by the Renaissance, a preoccupation with the arts and human achievement affected the landscape by changing man s attitude towards nature. With man s reorientation towards nature, it was no longer feared, but rather it was controlled by man. The new emphasis on humanism led to the prime importance of human ideas and free will; superiority over nature. They showed this by their use of water manipulation in the form of diverting rivers for aesthetics and creating many fountains for human enjoyment. Terraces were carved out of hillsides and villas built, paying no attention to the natural environments that were destroyed to build the views and gardens. With this new attitude towards nature, man now saw nature as a tool to be exploited for human use and this notion would carry on fore generations to come, as well as to other countries undergoing enlightenment. This is a point of major similarity between the Italian and French Renaissance by reason of man s newly formed attitudes. In France, the Renaissance started about century later than in Italy, but by no means were their perception of nature any different. With an absolute monarchy system of government was in place, the complete reign of power that King Louis XIV had over his people was also to be expressed over the landscape and nature as well. There was a new focus on materialism and the arts expressed this new idea. Louis centralized power was directly represented in the grandeur of scale of estates the likes of which had never been seen before, such as Versailles. Like Italy, the natural land was completely manipulated by humans to display their dominance over nature in the forms of great lawns, massive fountains, and acres of wooded lands removed. A key contrast between the Italian and French culture was Italy s emphasis on humanism, the power humans had over the land through the use of their free will , while France accentuated materialism, the importance of material goods and wealth, which directly came from the monarchy and the king s expression through material possessions.
Both Italy and France had unique elements of design form and design theory, however, many elements overlapped between each Renaissance. In Italy, the garden design theory contained five characteristics, each unique to Italy s climate and terrain. The elements were to 1) consider a site on solid, well drained ground; 2) consider orientation of house and site in relation to the sun; 3) consideration of site to prevailing winds; 4) determine adequacy of water supply; and 5) use of local materials. The Italians started using distinctive characteristics if their own, creating a new design form unique to Italy, like boscos of olive trees and terraces. They also used parterres, a main axis, cross axis, and extensive systems of fountains as key features of design. For example, in Villa D este, water was an organizing feature and was used in fountains and for amusement but also step terraces, parterres, symmetry, and axis were used as well, making this Villa characteristic of Italian design. In France, while the contrasted the terrain of Italy, many of the same elements were used, but some on a much larger scale. The use of the axis was utilized by the Italians and the natural terrain made it so that the was limited, but it was the French who took the main axis and created it into an “infinite” central axis. Comparable to Italy, but on a much larger scale, were the use of a cross axis, parterres, fountains and symmetry. The immense size of the French lands force the designers to use cutouts in the forest as well as sculptures to prevent monotony; both uniquely French. While the Renaissance took place in both Italy and France, different characteristics, along with some similar ones, were prevalent in their landscapes. Each country had to conform to their natural environment and build accordingly to get results that would fit the land. Cultural influences also played a large portion in deciding what was to happen on the land, whether it be a monarchy and it s absolute power over man and nature, or a more humanistic approach to the environment.