woensdag 11 september 2013

Spain, Aranjuez Cultural Landscape

The Aranjuez cultural landscape is an entity of complex relationships: between nature and human activity, between sinuous watercourses and geometric landscape design, between the rural and the urban, between forest landscape and the delicately modulated architecture of its palatial buildings. Three hundred years of royal attention to the development and care of this landscape have seen it express an evolution of concepts from humanism and political centralization, to characteristics such as those found in its 18th century French-style Baroque garden, to the urban lifestyle which developed alongside the sciences of plant acclimatization and stock-breeding during the Age of Enlightenment.

The complex cultural landscape of Aranjuez, derived from a variety of sources, marks a seminal stage in the development of landscape design. It represents the coming together of diverse cultural influences to create a cultural landscape that had a formative influence on further developments in this field. Aranjuez has been witness to various cultural exchanges over a span of time, in a specific cultural area, that has had a tremendous influence in the development of its landmarks and the creation of its landscape.
Aranjuez represents a model for a given culture's use of its territory. However, the city has become increasingly vulnerable since the disappearance at the turn of the century of the Royal Court that had so much influence on its development. This area enjoyed a long history of human settlement before becoming a strategic stronghold during Roman times, with its position at a river crossing (the Tajo and the Jarama) and cross-roads, to the south of Madrid and to the north-west of Toledo. Towards the end of the 14th century, the knights built a palace in the middle of the woods, then replete with game. But it was Philip II in the 16th century who created the first period of splendour. He built a new palace and large ornamental and vegetable gardens laid out according to geometric principles and it was also a private and personal retreat. During the 17th century Aranjuez prospered as the annual abode of royalty, a place of pageantry and hunting, and a source of inspiration for the patronage of some of the greatest Spanish poets of the Golden Age.
The continuing splendour of the 18th century culminated in the building of a new town close to the palace. After a brief revival which added a new element of modernism and eclecticism to the royal site during the first half of the 19th century, the end of the reign of Isabella II marked the close of the Crown's exclusive role in the history of this riverside complex and community. At the Revolution in 1868, all Crown property passed to the State. By the early 1870s the population increased and a railway line (1851) stimulated vigorous economic activity at the price of cutting the palace's eastern vistas and bisecting the Picotajo garden. During the 20th century, Aranjuez became a densely populated satellite city of Madrid, an industrial and cultural centre. Nevertheless, the site overall kept its integrity. The whole area appears as a green oasis in a landscape otherwise of sierra type, dry, brown and fairly barren of vegetation as a result of climate, geomorphology, and over-exploitive land use.
The site incorporates a planned town, large gardens, vegetable gardens and orchards, lagoons, rivers and waterworks, woods, and moors. The main elements are the Palace and Island Garden, arranged around a plaza with, on the east, the King's Garden of irregular plan with fountains and, on the west, avenues and vistas eventually cut by the railway with, across a canal to the north, entirely within a sharp bend of the river beyond the Garden of the Statues and a fountain, the geometric Island Garden full of fountains and other structures; the Great Historic Garden consisting of a series of gardens which together comprise the bulk of the area; the urban area is subdivided into an industrial area west of the palace, incorporating the railway station and the gardens west of the palace, and the 18th-century town that is now the historic core of modern Aranjuez (the original town plan is intact); and the Prince's Garden, a late 18th- to early 19th-century garden that stretches along the south bank of the Tajo, north-east of the town. These elements are subsumed in a series of intermeshed landscapes, all combining conceptually to create a cultural landscape with rivers, dams, ditches, and fountains. The agricultural landscape is formed by vegetable gardens, orchards, nurseries and stock-breeding; the gardens form a delectable landscape. The geometry, starting with the grand alignments of Phillip II, also influenced parts of the hydraulic system, although clearly other factors were at play there; conversely, the hydrology fed the fountains and ponds, which were usually placed at particular points determined by geometry, albeit serving an aesthetic purpose.
The constructed landscape is formed by roads, architecture, and town. Both the natural and geometric bases of the site as a whole survive remarkably well, with relatively little loss and effectively (modern communication routes apart) no inappropriate intrusion. Major buildings as well as the city's layout and its gardens and tree-lined avenues have been preserved as the characteristic of an urban community among orchards and groves living on a ground plan.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Historical Description

The Aranjuez area enjoyed a long history of human settlement before becoming a strategic stronghold during Roman times. Then its position at a river crossing and cross roads - a factor to be repeatedly influential - gave it a significance in the political geography of the time. It lay in a sparsely populated region thereafter and was eventually granted by the Crown to the military order of St James of Santiago in the medieval period. Towards the end of the 14th century, the knights built a palace in the middle of the woods, then replete with game.
Aranjuez became a Royal site in the 15th century, but it was Philip II in the 16th century who created the first period of splendour. He built a new palace and large ornamental and vegetable gardens laid out according to geometric principles, attempting to symbolize his world-wide imperial sovereignty based on a centralized state while at the same time celebrating a return to nature, its structure, and man's supremacy according to the canons of Humanism. It was also a private and personal retreat. Phillip meanwhile pursued botanical experimentation, acclimatizing plant species from all over the world, and introduced hydraulic engineering based on best practice in central Europe and Italy. During the 17th century Aranjuez prospered as the annual abode of royalty, a place of pageantry and hunting, and a source of inspiration for and patronage of some of the greatest Spanish poets of the Golden Age.
The continuing splendour of the 18th century culminated in the building of a new town close to the palace. During the reign of Charles III, the city and its surrounding area became an experimental ground for physiocratic, agricultural, scientific, and social ideas lying at the heart of the Enlightenment. The King sought to provide exemplars both for horticultural practice and in the design of model farms. Such cultural grandeur effectively died when, under external pressure from French Revolutionary ideas and Napoleon's ambitions, the Aranjuez Riot at the end of the century signalled the end of Spain's Ancien Régime.
After a brief revival which added a new element of modernism and eclecticism to the Royal Site during the first half of the 19th century, the end of the reign of Isabella II marked the close of the Crown's exclusive role in the history of this riverside complex and community. A City Council was established independent of Royal command (1836) and the Royal family's use of Aranjuez decreased. At the Revolution in 1868, all Crown property passed to the State and, although large parts of Aranjuez were initially excepted, all that was left in Royal hands by the early 1870s were fragments of their former estate. Meanwhile, the population increased and a railway line (1851) stimulated vigorous economic activity at the price of cutting the Palace's eastern vistas and bisecting the Picotajo garden. During the 20th century Aranjuez became a densely populated satellite city of Madrid, an industrial and cultural centre in which memory and maintenance of the Royal Site deteriorated. Nevertheless, the Site overall kept its integrity, and by the end of that century new assessments, policies, and programmes of works reflected new attitudes of respect for the Royal Site.

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