The Cultural Landscape Association (CLA) is a non-profit organization specialized in the area of Cultural Landscape and the only institution in Iran that focuses on cultural landscapes interdisciplinary. The Association’s mission is to strengthen the role of cultural landscape in sustainable development in Iran and the Middle East region, by building the capacity of all those professionals and bodies involved with cultural landscape recognition, protection, conservation and management in the region, through training, research, the dissemination of information and network building.
The members of the association are academicians, experts, and ex. managers from different disciplines who work on research projects with the collaboration of internal and external institutions. In addition to research projects, CLA also holds conferences, meetings, and specialized tours.
Now, after our very successful international tours and on-site workshops “Taste Paradise” in May 2013, “Landscape Transformation” in May 2015, and “Taste Persian Cultural Landscape & Architecture” in November 2018, The Cultural Landscape Association (CLA) is planning to orchestrate another on-site workshop and journey (Taste Paradise II) for experts and professionals all around the globe, to visit and enjoy the cultural beauty of Persian Gardens on 27 Apr.-04 May 2019. It is a good opportunity for whom want to taste Iranian culture and history. In order to raise its quality, these workshops are only available to a limited number of people (20 participants for each tour) at the time, so it would be better if applicants register earlier not to lose the chance.
Heritage conservation is founded on a modernist view of the supremacy of reason and science over faith, religion and belief.
The foundations of these stupas were probably damaged by flood water before the roadway was built. Should conservation work be undertaken?
This leads to the conservation policy of detaching objects from their cultural contexts and freezing them in time. If the culture that produced the object has died, this may be justifiable. But a different policy is surely necessary when, as with Buddhism in Ladakh, the culture is alive.
Stupas are a case in point. They were made for religious reasons, to symbolise man’s place in space-time and the universe.
Stupa heritage conservation? Note the damage from vibrations or collisions
Building a stupa yields merit. Maintaining a stupa yields merit. Going clockwise around a stupa yields merit. Yet seeing a stupa decay is also instructive, as an illustration of impermanence, of anicca. With his last words, the Buddha reminded his followers that ‘All created things are impermanent’. So good actions are more important than any material or worldly goods. Similar considerations apply to the conservation of historic gardens, and much else. Denis Byrne writes that ‘the life of a stupa is one of disintegration and accumulation’. I agree, and I also believe ‘that the life of a garden is one of disintegration and accumulation’. Only a few gardens and a few stupas should be managed like museum exhibits. Some stupas do memorialise the lives of holy men, but none were conceived as ‘sleeping places’ for the dead, which is the origin of the word ‘cemetery’. The Buddha was cremated and his ashes were scattered by dividing them among his followers.
Roadside stupa in Ladakh: is it good that so many people see the stupa? Or is it bad that the trucks damage stupas?
Monty Don is my favourite TV garden presenter but watching his BBC2 series on “””Paradise Gardens”””” has been a mixed pleasure. He has the talents to be a good garden historian. But he does not have the time. So the BBC should involve more experts. On Islamic gardens (as they are often, if misleadingly called) the best source of reference is Islamic Gardens and Landscapes by D. Fairchild Ruggles. She argues, convincingly, that before the sixteenth century the gardens Monty Don has visited (at speed) were NOT conceived as Paradise Gardens. The concept of paradise was found in the Qur’an but was not applied to real world gardens until tomb gardens came to be made in Mughal India. Retrofitting the paradise concept to earlier gardens is a flight of fancy of a kind the BBC should spurn. It makes no more sense than would a discussion of motor vehicles in eighteenth century gardens or in Roman gardens.
Monty is stronger on the planting of Islamic Gardens and it was a pleasure to hear him draw attention to the British planting of the Taj Mahal Garden and Humayun’s Tomb Garden. He, or his research assistants, had the good sense to consult local experts. A British viceroy did his disappointing best to convert the Taj Mahal garden to the Gardenesque Style of Victorian England. ‘George Nathaniel Viscount Curzon was really a very superior person’.
Sigiriya’s garden was probably made by Buddhist monks
Sigiriya has an exceptionally interesting garden. Though often described as a ‘palace garden’ its character is much more likely to derive from the time when it was a Buddhist monastery. What looks at first sight like a ‘formal water garden’ of the kind made in Renaissance Europe was probably a set of baoli ponds used by the monks for drinking water, washing and ritual cleansing. The beautiful goddesses on the mirror wall are akin to those in other Buddhist monasteries of the period.
MacGregor starts by talking about water in Christianity and Islam before devoting most of the programme to India. What little is known about ancient Hindu gardens indicates they were flowery forests arranged around pools, which seem related to baolis, ghats and the pools in Buddhist monasteries.
In the modern world, I wish purity was more of a design objective for garden pools, as it is in Herbert Dreiseit’s Waterscapes. Even the worst books on garden design stress the centrality of water. Dr D G Hessayon The Rock & Water Garden Expert 1993 is a good example of a bad book on garden design.
Beliefs have led to the planting of Nelumbo nucifera the Sacred Lotus since ancient times
Beliefs have always influenced garden design styles, just as they influence contemporary gardens. And just as they will surely influence future gardens. I do not have a religion but I do believe in beliefs and in their importance for designers. Neil MacGregor’s radio series on Living with Gods is therefore of great interest to me. Taking objects and places as examples, MacGregor explains the beliefs that led to their creation. This is what I tried to do when writing histories of Asian, European and British garden design. So when I can see a connections between what MacGregor say and the history of gardens I will blog and tweet about them using the hastag #GardenBeliefs. I am hoping he will devote a programme to Nelumbo nucifera the Sacred Lotus – but doubt it. It was a celebrated garden plant long before the Buddha made it a very famous garden plant as recorded in the story of the Flower Sermon:
Toward the end of his life, the Buddha took his disciples to a quiet pond for instruction. As they had done so many times before, the Buddha’s followers sat in a small circle around him, and waited for the teaching. But this time the Buddha had no words. He reached into the muck and pulled up a lotus flower. And he held it silently before them, its roots dripping mud and water. The disciples were greatly confused. Buddha quietly displayed the lotus to each of them. In turn, the disciples did their best to expound upon the meaning of the flower: what it symbollized, and how it fit into the body of Buddha’s teaching. When at last the Buddha came to his follower Mahakasyapa, the disciple suddenly understood. He smiled and began to laugh. Buddha handed the lotus to Mahakasyapa and began to speak. “What can be said I have said to you,” smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”
Alan Watts a great interpreter of Buddhist ideas for westerners made a wise comment on contemporary religious ideas (he uses the term ‘faith’ where I use ‘belief’):
The present phase of human thought and history … almost compels us to face reality with open minds, and you can only know God through an open mind just as you can only see the sky through a clear window. You will not see the sky if you have covered the glass with blue paint. But “religious” people who resist the scraping of the paint from the glass, who regard the scientific attitude with fear and mistrust, and confuse faith with clinging to certain ideas, are curiously ignorant of laws of the spiritual life which they might find in their own traditional records.