by David Driapsa, FASLA
The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 14th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document Working Landscapes. Historic “working” or “productive” landscapes may be agricultural or industrial and unique or traditional. Some topical working landscapes convey water for irrigation or provide flood control. Please focus your HALS report on the landscape as a whole and not on a building or structure alone. For this theme, the HAER History Guidelines may be helpful along with HALS History Guidelines.
I am pleased to share with you an introduction to documenting historic working landscapes. Working landscapes are vernacular (subsistence and commercial gardening and agriculture), scientific (industrial horticulture), commercial (fishing), educational (the work of producing knowledge), recreation, and others that are conceived, situated, and adapted to the economies which they support.
Chimayo, New Mexico, is an historic village established on the north American frontier of the Spanish empire, situated in the arid Santa Cruz Valley of what today is northern New Mexico. Irrigation ditches known as acequias were constructed to convey water for miles down from the Sangre Cristo Mountains to nourish gardens and fields below in the valley. The working landscape created under this precious water economy was so essential to life that the land was organized with the irrigated crops established on fertile land below the acequias and dwellings occupied the dry slopes above. This land use planning was essential to preserve the land that could be watered for agriculture.