The Council has a body called the Landscape Observatory. | CCL

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Landscape. There are times when even the most familiar can stop you dead in your tracks and marvel. Landscape can shift. It does shift. The time of day makes it move. And so it was one afternoon when the sun had lit the Arta hillside as it rose from the eastern extremity of the bay of Alcudia above Es Caló. It was mountain landscape transformed, if only briefly. Glowing in the distance, I’d never seen it like that. Or couldn’t remember having seen it like that. If I had, then I wouldn’t have been so transfixed.

It was something that Maria Antònia Garcías said the other day. The Council of Mallorca’s councillor for territory, she was speaking about developments that the Council’s territorial plan will prevent - or intends to prevent. One was in Deya. “If this land were to be built on, it would alter the panoramic characteristic of the village. The landscape is Mallorca’s main asset. It must be preserved.”

Main asset, and so it would have seemed a hundred or more years ago to those painters who came to Mallorca. That effect of the sun on the Arta hills would have been mirrored elsewhere. Was mirrored. It was the light in combination with the physical that drew the painters. They could capture the moving landscape in a vastly more complex manner than today. Phone out - look at that landscape, #Mallorca.

The Council has a body called the Landscape Observatory. An appropriate term, as what else does one do but observe the landscape? Observe, and yet it has an intangible quality. The environment, an admittedly broader concept, has been mechanised, made overtly tangible by its management and regulatory framework. There are ministries for the environment, audits for the environment, university studies for the environment.

But landscape, a feature of this environment, seems strangely elusive, inappropriate for categorising as a discipline for managing. In the past when translating from the native, I’ve looked to use a different word precisely because it does somehow feel inappropriate. It’s physical, absolutely it is, but at the same time it is to be sensed. It has individual meaning, it goes to the soul.

The word is used a great deal - paisaje, that is, or paisatge, if one prefers. It has long been used a great deal and so perhaps reinforces that assertion of the main asset. One of those painters, Atilio Boveri, started the collection that the Club Pollença has amassed down the years. In 1914, he donated a painting. Its title was simply ‘Paisaje’.

There are now innumerable landscape paintings, just as there are photos. The Council’s Observatory is creating a digital archive, one of the projects it has undertaken since it was established a couple of years ago. The governing council met last Friday, Maria Antònia Garcías saying that it is meeting its objectives alongside the landscape strategy.

A strategy, so there you have it. Landscape is for managing. It is for institutional departmentalising, even if it is an observational department rather than a department with job titles. What am I saying? There is a director at the Council for territory and landscape. The two go hand in hand because the territory - the land - requires protection and so does what this land looks like, the landscape.

I get it, I truly do understand it. Stick a development up in a mountain village and the panoramic characteristic will indeed be altered. Panoramic characteristics across the island have been altered, and irretrievably so. Protection by regulation is needed. Hence, Garcías and her director, Miquel Vadell, have been identifying suitable cases for protection under the Council’s territorial plan.

Not just Deya, but any number of locations, including Cala Sant Vicenç and a projected hotel that would dispense with some woodland. Irretrievable.

Understandable but by the same token peculiar, until one appreciates that the Observatory is a belated commitment to the European Landscape Convention. The Canaries have had an Observatory since 2008. It took another twelve years for Mallorca to follow suit.

And now, smitten by the institutionalising bug, there is at some point to be a Landscape Law, or so it was said some months ago. There will certainly be a Tramuntana Law, for which - one guesses - landscape will be but one element. This legislative drive, as with the functioning of the Observatory, cuts across departments. Environment, heritage, mobility and tourism are all represented along with territory. The environment department, for example, is to improve the dry-stone route and the old way to Formentor.

These are technical matters, for the landscape has become a technical issue. The landscape needs such a technical approach, of course it does. Yet nevertheless, this seems at odds with its being, its essence. The landscape is and the landscape lives. Watch the sun catch the hills of Arta and marvel.