The landscape arises from the interpretation that humans make about territory; it is the human look upon it that transforms into landscape what was originally considered natural territory 1, and is understood as the space available to be humanly manipulated and reconfigured. This interpretation is full of social, cultural, and group meanings, which influence how humans see and value nature and then act upon it. There are a series of territories intervened and transformed with a utilitarian purpose, where communities seek to make them habitable and productive for their subsistence and thus give them meaning.
From the beginning of history, the exploration of the landscape brought with it the action of moving and crossing space; action born of the intrinsic human impulse to move in pursuit of food and information necessary for subsistence. Nomadic cities showed a reading of the territory that was produced from the relationships that its inhabitants managed to establish along the way in an immense background, leaving in evidence a distribution of traces without an apparent order. The notion of traversing territory, then, was the first action of physical transformation of space to display traces along the way as a product of coming and going.
In the transition from the nomadic city to sedentary settlements, the appearance of certain elements reveals the intention to build a place by situating elements in the territory as a reference in relation to the surrounding environment. The passage from a wandering dwelling in the exploration of territory to one of permanence determined the construction of different spatialities that manifested as primitive gestures that marked the surface, where in turn there was a symbolic construction of human presence and permanence in relation to territory. It is in response to this act of moving that the impulse to generate spaces as points of departure or arrival arose, and where a series of activities related to the exchange of goods and products between the communities took place.
This vision of landscape, one generated in a vast territory where movements that connect places give it meaning, determines a map which consists of a series of routes marking reference points in a geography that is deformed according to those movements. The shape of permanent spaces interconnected by segments of routes in the territory transforms the landscape into a network that forms a specific unit: the notion of use gives dimensions to the territory. This continuous movement, an essential redefinition and articulation of the map that defines the landscape, consolidates a link that integrates the territory’s representation in the cultural memory; in essence, it becomes the formalization of this result, a language of gestures that transform a space into its own community.
In this evolution of territory with its defined edges and in the passage from nomadism to a sedentary lifestyle, productive agricultural and livestock activities and raw material extraction are the most obvious constructions of a landscape determined by the unfolding of elements containing valuable information about natural and cultural processes. Each transformation in the territory is a representation loaded with meaning that expresses how humans have been able to adapt natural resources for their own use and in turn how they habituate to the conditions of the surrounding environment. The uniqueness of each landscape is that its image is the product of the interpretation that a community makes of the environment it inhabits; interpretation that participates in forming its identity.
In the wide spectrums of landscapes in Chile, thanks to the richness and variety of its geography, many territories are marked by human activities. In the central zone, specifically on the coasts of the VI Region, the stationary landscape of the Salineras de Cáhuil located on the Nilahue River shows a geometry constructed by mud parapets that begins to appear in the spring and reaches its maximum splendor in the summer with the lowest level of the river. This area unfolds as the support that the salt deposit molds for its route and its extraction and which permits its movement to the interior of the Wetland, forming pools where water accumulates in the winter when there is an increase in the flow of the river.
The longitudinal extension of these salt-producing plots − and therefore of their route − is determined by the succession of stages through which the salt miner must conduct the water to get the precious sea salt. Then, a network of articulated routes is generated in which certain places − points of intersection − are identified where precarious shelters are built with a combination of materials mostly obtained from the same place, which allow, in times of harvest, a place for resting in the shade and selling the salt.
The symbolic transformation of the territory in the landscape of the salt of Cáhuil arises from the creation that the salt miner makes when he works. He builds with elements strongly associated with the landscape, tracing and dimensioning it with the efforts determined by production. In short, when contemplating places transformed by human productive activity, a construction that unites culture and territory can be observed which forms a particular and unrepeatable landscape.
Carolina García S. Architect of the University of Valparaíso, Chile. She has participated in diverse initiatives aimed at protecting Chile’s landscape. Currently, she works as an architect in the Planning Department of the Municipality of Los Vilos.
(1) Maderuelo, Javier, Paisaje y Arte, (Landscape and Art) 2007, Abada Editores, Madrid, 2008.