Are these Sauer grapes?

Landscape research is typically nested in cultural geography, which is in turn nested in human geography, opposite of physical geography. This is of course a broad generalization and by no means manages to capture the diversity of landscape research, which includes multiple disciplines, not only geography. To name some, these include anthropology, architecture, art and history with influences crossing over from one discipline to another. Nevertheless, landscape research tends to be associated with geography.

Early landscape research of the early to mid 1900s is often associated with Carl Sauer and his students, often referred to as the ‘Berkeley School’. That said, others, such as Siegfried Passarge, Johannes Granö and Paul Vidal de la Blache, should not be forgotten, even though they tend to be glossed over these days. Famously, in ‘The Morphology of Landscape’, Sauer (25-26) proposes that landscape is “the unit concept of geography”, one that “characterize[s] the peculiarly geographic association of facts” and defines it as “an area made up of a distinct association of forms, both physical and cultural.”

Landscape research ran into problems in the late 1930s. In 1939, Richard Hartshorne heavily criticized landscape as a unit concept of geography in ‘The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Though in the Light of the Past’, resulting in the marginalization of landscape research in geography in the United States. For Hartshorne (327, 344), it was simply unnecessary and confusing to equate landscape with area or region and he regarded its introduction from its use by the German geographers to the English usage as “a scientific crime.” It may seem like a trivial thing to even introduce early landscape research and its subsequent demise, if you will, but I find it important to understand it in order to appreciate what came next.


  • Hartshorne, R. (1939). The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Thought in the Light of the Past. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 29 (3): 173–412.
  • Sauer, C. O. ([1925] 1929). The Morphology of Landscape. In C. O. Sauer (Ed.), University of California Publications in Geography, Vol. 2: 1919–1928 (pp. 19–54). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.