Carlo Scarpa Prize 2019

Since 1990 the UNHATE Foundation in Treviso, supported by the Benetton Group, annually awards a cultural landscape that was designed and preserved with great sensitivity. Such projects are often unnoticed by the public, yet contribute significantly to a worldwide network of cultural heritage. Their central quality is the harmonious interplay between people and cultivated nature.

Carlo Scarpa Prize 2019
The rural landscape of Wuyuan County, from the hills of Kaoshui farm, the largest (about 110 hectares of fields employing 59 farming families) of Dazhangshan tea crops; below some rice fields, October 2018. Photography by Gabriele Gismondi for Fondazione Benetton Studi Ricerche.

And the winner is…

In this regard, this year’s winner is no exception: the jury recently awarded the 30th Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens to the tea plantations in Dazhangshan, located along the slopes of Dazhang Mountain in southeastern China. For centuries the cultivation of tea on terraced hillsides has been a characteristic feature of this region: hedges meticulously shaped into waves, surrounded by mountain forests and paddy fields in the valleys – a landscape that seems out of time, particularly when considering the increasingly industrialized production of crops around the world.

This landscape image results from the work of a group of farmers who formed a cooperative in 2001. The aim was to preserve this unique cultural landscape, first mentioned in Lu Yu’s (703-804) “The Classic of Tea”, and to continue developing it in a contemporary way. The cooperative currently comprises about a dozen family-owned farms that cultivate nearly 10,000 hectares of land – including tea plantations covering more than 500 hectares – by adhering to the principles of organic agriculture. The Dazhangshan Organic Tea Farmer Association recently also received the certification of the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, FLO. The certification strengthens the cooperative’s marketing activities, and the Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens inspires people to rethink the way they act as consumers. While the prize alone is insufficient to preserve cultural landscapes, it nevertheless helps make the public aware of such exemplary landscape treasures.