The Preservation of Landscape

In the field of preservation, few subjects challenge the discipline as much as landscape preservation. Historic preservation is a field that thrives on stabilization – of the literal materials that compose buildings, historical appearances, and development.

Landscapes – because they are composed of the social and natural – cannot be easily contained within the preservation mind-set. The overseers of Versailles, as one of many examples, “preserved” the landscape by continually replanting the trees in the gardens. I believe the “historical” trees at the contemporary versailles are the fourth planting. The first planting died in the 18th century; the second in the beginning of the 19th, and the last at the end of the 19th. We view a 17th and early 18th century landscape composed of 20th century foliage.

Recently, some of the most important owners and managers of the vineyards of Burgundy applied for the entire Cote d’Or, one of the most significant wine growing areas of the world, to attain World Heritage Status. I’m certain they will succeed. But the call to preserve such an immense and functioning landscape will certainly challenge the preservation discipline.

Rem Koolhaas famously joked that we would eventually extend our obsession with heritage to the preservation of the moon. But the moon is a much simpler landscape. We don’t live there, and we don’t continuously develop its resources. It’s not a site of labor.

Below is an appeal for Burgundy’s world heritage status by the vigneron/manager Aubert de Villaine. I’m curious what you think about this? It could make for a fascinating architecture studio.

Dear Friends:

Burgundy is currently federated around an ambitious project: the inscription of the Côtes de Beaune, the Côtes de Nuits and the towns of Dijon and Beaune on the World Heritage List.

Nowhere in the world a wine region has chosen with such stubborness and success to make the link between wine and its place of origin, creating a unique mosaic of climats which includes some of the most famous names in the world: Chambertin, Romanée-Conti, Clos de Vougeot, Montrachet, Corton, Musigny…..

For 2000 years, this land has been tended with constant care. Coupled with a constant search for excellence, it has shaped landscapes, built cabotes (stone huts), wine cellars, churches, etc..

Associated with the towns of Dijon and Beaune, which are the historic centres of political, economic and cultural power, the “climats” du vignoble de Bourgogne are a unique living “museum” of expertise and tradition.

Our candidacy has already overcome the first and most important step: we have been selected by the French government and will be presented to the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO.

However, to be included on the World Heritage list is not yet guaranteed. The 21 member states sitting on the World Heritage Committee must now be convinced of the exceptional and universal character of the “climats” of Burgundy.

As you know, recognition will not be achieved without the support of all concerned: from residents of Burgundy to citizens of the world, every one of us has a share in these exceptional landscapes.

We have more than 43 000 supporters now; you too, can play an active role. Support our application. Simply go to our website and click “Participate”.

Thank you for your support,
Aubert de VILLAINE


  1. Cristin

    I understand the sentiment but the preservation concept seems precipitous here. Burgundy’s identity is rooted in innovation that manages to “preserve” tradition on a symbolic level, not physical. I wonder how literally this would be taken at the landscape level.

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