Your Views about Views? by Susan Cohan

March 19, 2013

in Articles, From the USA, General Interest

There has been discussion in the British press recently, I believe, about whether we should specifically protect important views, before they are all covered by wind power stations. Views, as borrowed landscape, are vital to many gardens.  However – when we can’t even protect AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty), or the view from Highgrove, (see here) what hope do we have?

It appears we are not alone with this in the UK  – Susan Cohan recently sent me the following piece.

Anne Wareham, editor

View of the Palisades from Wave Hill, copyright Susan Cohan for thinkingardens

View of the Palisades from Wave Hill

Susan Cohan :

Vista and View Preservation

An article recently in the New York Times about a proposed and (yes) sustainably built and ‘green’ corporate headquarters that will rise above the Palisades along the Hudson River galvanized my thinking about view preservation as part of the whole save the planet movement.

Views and vistas need to be preserved.  They are seldom considered when giant wind turbines are erected on mountain tops or along the shoreline. They’re not considered when housing developments climb up a hillside.  They’re not considered when a swath of land is taken up for new corporate headquarters.  Yet a property with a view is worth more than one without.

Autumn fields, protected, copyright Susan Cohan for thinkingardens

Autumn fields, protected

Parks and public spaces aren’t enough to protect many views that are in the way of our continued sprawl as well as our so-called environmental progress.  In the New York metro region land is valuable and in increasing short supply hours and miles away from the city. Our views need to be preserved as much as the remaining open space. Views and vistas are part of the environment and should be preserved as such.

Shouldn’t the beauty of the earth’s landscape be just as important as saving its air, waterways and soil?  Humans need beauty as much as air, water, and soil.  For me, and many others I suspect, these views and vistas move me to my deepest core.  My heart stops on a drive or hike when I get a glimpse of the beauty of a vista and world beyond.  They soothe me when little else will, and inspire me when all else fails.  They deserve respect and preservation.

Susan Cohan.  website

Susan Cohan is a co-founder and editor of Leaf magazine. (you will find Veddw in the Spring 2012 edition…ed.)

Susan Cohan copyright Susan Cohan

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana Studer March 28, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Now we have a mountain view. Not a spectacular view, but a good one. In the next garden we have just glimpses of the ridge, above and between neighbouring houses. But still, distance for the heart and the eye to see.


James Golden March 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Speaking of nuclear power plants and views, I’m reminded of Derek Jarman’s garden, a beautiful garden with a view of a large nuclear plant. But all is relative. I think we want variety, options for more “pastoral” or “sublime” or “dramatic” views. Something about the view from Jarman’s garden, admirable though it is, reminds me of a Samuel Beckett play–Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape. In my part of New Jersey, thousands of acres have been saved through preservation efforts, but most views have not been preserved. The views across the Delaware River, for example, to extraordinary wooded bluffs, is often marred by private houses built right at the top of the ridge, on the most highly visible sites. There is value in zoning or other options to preserve views for future generations. It’s not all a matter of money.


Abbie Jury March 21, 2013 at 12:26 am

Having recently acquired a new view of high tension power lines marching across our viewshaft, for which mature native trees were felled willy nilly, I have a great deal of sympathy with this post. It is not as if these power lines are for the public good. They are solely to service one major company that wants its own designated power supply. Should a private company be able to march power pylons across a rural landscape and clear everything in their path? Not in my books.


john lord March 20, 2013 at 12:07 am

Railways were once regarded as a blot on the landscape and resisted by the great and the good. Now we have railway preservation societies!
It’s all in the mind.


Vanessa Gardner Nagel March 19, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Many years ago I had the privilege of working with a couple of very creative architects. Their sensitivity lead them to design a power station that looked like a building in the style of the local vernacular…materials the building just blended into the view without disturbing it. That said, I find Bill’s remarks thought-provoking.


Bill March 19, 2013 at 6:21 pm

The view belongs to who? Sunshine belongs to who? A real view is somewhere like the middle of the ocean, or mountain tops. Agricultural land and most of the United Kingdom is a man-manipulated landscape. So who owns a view? Therefore what price is a view worth? ‘View for sale, price on application???’

Think about this. Is the New York skyline a view? And what price would you place upon it.


commonweeder March 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm

First, I should say I have a beautiful view here at the End of the Road. Our house is in the middle of 60 clear and wooded acres. My field and the surrounding woodland is all we can see. So I suppose it is easy tor me to say I consider wind turbine sculptural objects. I am not concerned about solar panels winking and blinking as the sun goes across the sky. There is a price for everything in this world, as those who pay a ‘view tax’ know. If we destroy the earth as a result of global warning there will be no one to complain about spoiled views. There is also the issue of what some consider the health effects of living near turbines, which means they need to be located in more remote areas. This is a knotty problem. What are we willing to pay for what outcome?


Paul Steer March 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Stuart has a point, but perhaps the ‘natural’ landscape view is embedded somewhere deep in our psyche (if there is such a thing) . Perhaps we have a longing for a world without the clutter and paraphernalia of the industrial era ? Perhaps the industrial view reminds us too much of the truth of our existence on this small planet. Maybe we have a nostalgia for the paradise lost ? There is less and less of that world left, and in my view it is as much a part of our collective memory and heritage as country houses, estates and gardens, and is even more precious because of the positive effect upon our inner lives so clearly indicated in the article. Although nature will reclaim it all long after we are gone !


Lorraine from Plant Paradsie Country Gardens March 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Here where I live and operate an organic perennial nursery and 24 acres of botanical gardens in Caledon Ontario, Canada, there is a government legislated Greenbelt which protects 1.8 million acres of green space, farmland, forests, wetlands, and watersheds, in Southern Ontario. This surrounds the fastest growing urban areas of North America. I am thankful this was done. I question where all these people are suppose to get their food and clean water. It not only protects agricultural land but sensitive ecological and hydrological land which includes the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine. Then there is the experience of the views and the fresh clean air. Travelers get out of their car and breathe in the peace and refreshing beauty of nature. Food for the soul.


wildelycreative March 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Views move me in the same way they do Susan, to my deepest core. For me, it’s not always about the beauty of the view (I am unconcerned about wind farms “blighting” the landscape) but the sense of space, of perspective – big sky, big land, small me. It’s one of the reasons why we moved where we did. And if green belt land isn’t protected that view will be obliterated by development. The farmer will sell if he gets a chance.


Stuart Pryde March 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I agree that views are important but it leads me to ask the question: why can’t a power station of any kind be part of a view? The views that people want to preserve are usually man-made in the UK – why is a wind-turbine or a nuclear power station any less a part of that landscape than an agricultural field, the artificial placement of trees, or a Scottish glen cleared of its inhabitants a hundred years ago? Just asking.


Sacha Hubbard March 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I’ve often mused in a vague sort of way on what Stuart writes. Why is an oblong concrete block of flats any less pleasing to the eye than a beautiful Georgian house? Well – my eye, anyway. I suppose the answer is an imponderable, in fact. It’s a question of what calls to the spirit of the individual. How uplifting is a nuclear power station to the eyes of most people? Not at all would be my answer, a striking piece of architecture would be someone else’s. But I am firm in my personal belief that human beings NEED greenery, silence, and sweeping, unimpeded views that put us in our place, even if we visit them only occasionally.


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