Posted January 10th 2011 at 11:45 am by
in Year In Review 2010

The Year of Culture and Landscapes

My friend’s Raúl (Spain) and Dirk (Germany) play La Bamba (pilgrim style) in the Galician forest the day before we reach Santiago de Compostela.

2010 marked the end of a journey — as well as the beginning of a new one — in my personal, academic, and professional exploration of culture in landscape.

In January 2010 I began field work for my graduate thesis on the role of art and culture within the planning, development, and urban design policy of the Los Angeles River: Culture in Concrete: Art and the Re-imagination of the Los Angeles River as Civic Space. Throughout the spring, I contributed to CoLab Radio’s inaugural series, Thesis Chronicles. My series, Art and Culture Mapping on the L.A. River, allowed me to reflect upon my thesis field work and research and anchor it to a mental mapping exercise I conducted with advocates, policy makers, politicians, artists, and community members engaged in the L.A. River’s revitalization.

In May, I completed my thesis. In June, I graduated from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. In late July, I  moved to Spain and in August I began my journey on El Camino de Santiago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the first European Cultural Itinerary designated by the Council of Europe.

A medieval route beginning in the south of France and culminating in northwest Spain, I spent 30 days traversing 550 miles of diverse urban and rural landscapes. 2010 marked a festive Jacobean Year (every ten years) for El Camino, an event which fortunately allowed me to participate in a wide array of Spanish cultural events. Having just completed my thesis on cultural landscapes, I used my time on El Camino to investigate the role of art, culture, and heritage of one of the world´s most infamous cultural landscapes. I documented every day of my journey on TUMBLR.

In September, I began a MISTI Spain-supported project at the International Lab on Cultural Landscapes, where I investigated the role of culture and landscape along Catalonia’s Llobregat River (just north of Barcelona) and within other similar European cases. Overall, 2010 was not just about exploring my existing relationship with Los Angeles River or establishing a new one with the landscapes of Spain.

2010 cemented my passion for cultural landscapes and showed me that maybe, just maybe, my ongoing perspectives on the topic can make a strong case for the value of culture and landscape in urban and regional planning, design, and policy.

Post by John Arroyo.

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