The Mediterranean landscape is not a natural one in the sense of being wilderness, according to Louisa Jones. Rather, it has seen intense human intervention upon it for millennia. Yet, counter to many environmentalists' notion that human intervention automatically means environmental degradation, Jones, the author of Mediterranean Landscape Design: Vernacular Contemporary (2013; Thames and Hudson; 224pp.; $60 hardcover) points to a study Jacques Blondel asserting that the region actually has more biodiversity than it would have if it remained untouched.
This idea - that human intervention can make nature and the landscape thrive - permeates the text. It suggests something along the lines of human activity in accord with nature. And just as the region's ecology and culture maintain a harmonious balance, so do the book and the designs it contains. The text interweaves with the photographs. The photos are carefully composed and rich with color. The text is not just
descriptive but informative and evocative.
Within the pages of the book, you will find a cross section of differing types of people working within the medium of the landscapes. Environmental artists, master pruners, landscape architects and more traditional gardeners all make appearances. The design interventions range from a small, gold-leafed infinity symbol in a small rock to the landscape of an entire country estate that's been developed over decades. The locales included are such diverse nations and cultures as France, Italy, and Morocco.
The author, who has lived in the region for 40 years, also treads a fine balance between theory and practice. Aside from ecological concerns, the definition if what constitutes vernacular may be up for debate but the topic isn't really treated as such. While Jones draws from many academic works, especially those of renowned historian Fernand Braudel, her purpose isn't so much to participate in a debate, but to use their work to paint a more in-depth portrait of the region.
The one element most conspicuously missing from the text is a map of the Mediterranean region. While the author speaks thoroughly and evocatively of the various locales within the book, a map would help the reader place them in a definite geographic context. No maps were included perhaps because the relatively garish colors and hard lines of a map might clash with the overall book design, making it seem
out of place visually.