Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes

Preservation Planning and the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes


Preservation Planning

Factors to Consider

Special Requirements

Using the Standards + Guidelines

Organization of the Guidelines




Careful planning prior to treatment can help prevent irrevocable damage to a cultural landscape. Professional techniques for identifying, documenting, and treating cultural landscapes have advanced over the past twenty-five years and are continually being refined.

As described in the National Park Service publication, Preservation Brief #36: Protecting Cultural Landscapes, the preservation planning process for cultural landscapes should involve: historical research; inventory and documentation of existing conditions; site analysis and evaluation of integrity and significance; development of a cultural landscape preservation approach and treatment plan; development of a cultural landscape management plan and management philosophy; development of a strategy for ongoing maintenance; and, preparation of a record of treatment and future research recommendations.

In all treatments for cultural landscapes, the following general recommendations and comments apply:

Before undertaking project work, research of a cultural landscape is essential. Research findings help to identify a landscape’s historic period(s) of ownership, occupancy and development, and bring greater understanding of the associations that make them significant. Research findings also provide a foundation to make educated decisions for project treatment, and can guide management, maintenance, and interpretation. In addition, research findings may be useful in satisfying compliance reviews (e.g. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as amended).

Although there is no single way to inventory a landscape, the goal of documentation is to provide a record of the landscape as it exists at the present time, thus providing a baseline from which to operate. All component landscapes and features (see definitions) that contribute to the landscape’s historic character should be recorded. The level of documentation needed depends on the nature and the significance of the resource. For example, plant material documentation may ideally include botanical name or species, common name and size. To ensure full representation of existing herbaceous plants, care should be taken to document the landscape in different seasons. This level of research may most often be the ideal goal for smaller properties, but may prove impractical for large, vernacular landscapes.

Assessing a landscape as a continuum through history is critical in assessing cultural and historic value. By analyzing the landscape, change over time —the chronological and physical “layers” of the landscape—can be understood. Based on analysis, individual features may be attributed to a discrete period of introduction, their presence or absence substantiated to a given date, and therefore the landscape’s significance and integrity evaluated. In addition, analysis allows the property to be viewed within the context of other cultural landscapes.

In order for the landscape to be considered significant, character-defining features that convey its significance in history must not only be present, but they also must possess historic integrity. Location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling and association should be considered in determining whether a landscape and its character-defining features possess historic integrity.

Preservation planning for cultural landscapes involves a broad array of dynamic variables. Adopting comprehensive treatment and management plans, in concert with a preservation maintenance strategy, acknowledges a cultural landscape’s ever-changing nature and the interrelationship of treatment, management and maintenance.



Acoma Pueblo, [opposite] located 60 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited villages in the United States, dating back over 1,000 years. Many of its historic uses are still evident in the village today as reflected by the traditional construction of adobe-masonry architecture, outside ovens and outhouses. (NPS, 1996)