The concept of Myth is relatively amorphous, its edges are difficult to firmly define. Myths are intangibles, almost by definition, and yet they are fundamental to our understanding of the world around us.
The ways in which we perceive landscape and nature are inherently tied to mythology. The hero’s journey is defined not only by particular events, but also by the landscapes through which the hero travels in their quest for actualization. The landscape serves to strengthen the symbolism and meaning in the mythological narrative. Which landscapes we perceive as dangerous, safe, or beautiful are informed, overwhelmingly (and often subconsciously), by the stories in which these landscape typologies appear. Majestic mountaintops, dangerous forests, and gardens of paradise are all archetypal landscapes, reinforced through storytelling, which resonate deeply with our collective psyche.
On the other hand, landscapes are in many ways the physical manifestation of mythology. The American Dream; ideas of colonial success; mythologies of beauty, power, progress, and grandeur; even our ideological perceptions of restoration; all play themselves out through our shaping of the Earth’s surface. Perhaps this is why we, as the Editorial Board, were so drawn to ‘Myth’ as a theme for this issue. As landscape architects, we strive to imbue meaning into the landscapes we design: sometimes through the creation of new narratives, but largely through uncovering and making legible the cultural layers which already exist. The Roundtable explores this idea of cultural myths in the landscape and our role as land-based professionals.
When myths factor into our shared understanding of the world around us, they are a unifying force, facilitating a common ground from which to interact with one another. However, myths can also reinforce harmful or outdated attitudes about our spaces, to the detriment of the people who experience them. Particularly in today’s society, where there is increasing division, we ought to both design and protect landscapes which strengthen our communal ties and reinforce our shared humanity.
Nadja Pausch, OALA
Chair, Editorial Board