1 Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to introduce contemporary studies concerning landscape accessibility. The approach is not limited by territorial access only – accessibility influenced by natural conditions has not lost its importance and will be discussed in a separate paper. While writing this paper, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland that sent ash plumes all over Europe and grounded most of the airplanes made the importance of physical accessibility issues even more apparent – places usually rather close were suddenly almost inaccessible or out of reach altogether. The problems of physical isolation which are seasonally (Palang et al., 2007) or permanently common for remote places such as islands or mountain areas were those days experienced by all travelers in Europe. The influence this event has on landscape – also in terms of physical access – remains to be seen in the coming years.

Antrop (2005*) lists accessibility as one of the four major causes of landscape change, together with urbanization, globalization and natural calamities. According to him, whether people can reach a place or not often defines a site selection. Accessibility influences urban development, functional specialization of a place, such as a market place, harbor or defensive place; the growth of a place and the development of its economical or political power. Areas that are not easily accessible by people are often characterized as stable natural landscapes (Antrop, 2005, p. 26). Besides natural access, this quotation also brings forward the importance of creation of meaning in accessibility itself by asking questions, who defines landscape accessibility, or how accessibility is made useful in the landscape? Asking these questions, accessibility might be understood from the discursive point of view, highlighting subjective and interpretational characteristics.

This paper offers an introduction to the discursive concept of landscape accessibility, including socio-political approaches. Mostly, this kind of re-contextualizing of accessibility is caused by general globalization processes and neo-liberalist market-oriented discourses. These landscapes are governed by privatization, market forces, individualism and commodification of social life (see Slater, 2003, p. 76). The discursive approach of accessibility reviews landscape practices, where people themselves are aware of ideologically or socially constructed meanings. The overview is mainly made according to critical literature of landscape studies, caused by global restructuring of the economy and its competitive environment (Abrahamson, 2004*; Paloscia, 2004b). These processes are the cause of a localized, heterogeneous and fragmented world, which create different conflicts and inequalities (Eade, 1997*).

The overview is divided into two parts. First, the definition of accessibility is given, and its broadened context is introduced. Then, the historical-materialist approach of accessibility is presented. The paper describes how differently identified and resourced groups are incorporated within the structured material options of living. An overview is also given of the urbanization process, which has, due to different user conflicts, caused the need for more complex approaches of accessibility. Secondly, the post-structural discourses of accessibility are introduced with emphasis on legality and everyday practice. In the post-structural approach the historical-materialist perspective is widened with the possibilities of subjective discursive construction of accessibility in landscape, where the importance of the communicative context between different understandings is underlined. Special emphasis is given on the legal aspect of accessibility, where also moral contents are disputed (see Pow, 2009). The literature for the overview is chosen from the scientific article databases by searching for the term accessibility, and supplemented by related literature on social and political discussions in landscape studies.

Hinchliffe (2003*, p. 209) argues, ‘It is to say that the natures that we (possibly rightly) want to include in landscape histories and geographies are unlikely to be innocent. Nor are they likely to be accessible as a set of unmediated (or even mediated) primary properties.’ The communicational aspect is the cornerstone for developing a democratic urban ethos (see Hinchliffe, 2003*). In the discussion part we want to address the communicational aspect of accessibility. This view is presented having in mind the more complex meaning of accessibility. Here, besides territorial meanings and different political power structures, also social constructive possibilities from the point of view of the landscape’s everyday practice, with the importance of subjective agency, are described.

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