Contributions are welcome under the seven subthemes of the conference “Landscapes of Conflict”:
- Subtheme 1: Human and nature
- Subtheme 2: Experience and economy
- Subtheme 3: Participation and coproduction
- Subtheme 4: Planting design and ecology
- Subtheme 5: Theory and practice
- Subtheme 6: Teaching and learning
- Subtheme 7: Conservation and development
Subtheme 1: Human and nature
When it comes to dealing with nature, we humans don’t have the best track record. Our slowly accumulating heritage of environmental problems compels us to renegotiate our relation towards the natural world. Placing itself at the forefront of moving society in the direction of a sustainable future, landscape architecture has the ambition to foster and shape our relation to the environment. In order to forge a new alliance between man and nature, it often works alongside or together with nature. However, as nature is not always a benevolent force, a smooth reconciliation of human and natural interests might not always be desirable, let alone possible. How can we give room to those conflicts in our landscape designs, or even turn them to our benefit as specific opportunities?
Subtheme 2: Experience and economy
Besides aesthetic and ecological values, landscape architecture should take account of economic viability and reality. In the past, combined and diverse ecosystem services delivered by landscapes guaranteed their persistence. Today, however, only a few projects explicitly concern themselves with the economic functions of landscapes. Good design and commercial successes seem mostly unrelated or even mutually exclusive. Linking ecology, people and economy comes with equally abundant challenges and pitfalls. Are landscapes not crucial for food and energy production, recreation and tourism? And what about the experience economy as a driving force for marketing, branding and consumption? Landscape architecture may play a strategic role exploring new concepts and new agendas, and forging diverse and competing forces into interactive and viable alliances.
Subtheme 3: Participation and coproduction
People need spaces for ample participation and co-creation. Therefore, they should be addressed as citizens, varying in age, gender, place of residence, socio-economic status and ethnic-cultural background. More than a change in focus from top-down to bottom-up, participation and coproduction offer a valuable platform for spatial and community development. Interventions aim at local spatial solutions, but strive more generally towards landscape democracy and landscape stewardship. Involving citizens throughout the entire journey is therefore essential. Thus, how exactly can design enhance dialogue and stimulate a continuing learning process, allowing conflicts to create opportunities instead of constraints?
Subtheme 4: Planting design and ecology
In landscape architecture, plants are living design elements. They carry inherent ecological value, including the number of plant species in the design already contributing to its biodiversity. Ecology, however, stretches further than that. The ecological value of the design is determined by the species characteristics, the structure of the planting, etc. As the science concerned with relationships between organisms and their environments, ecology can influence the planting design. Natural ecological processes, plant communities or even complete ecosystems can serve as a scientific or inspirational source for planting design. This view may even alter the distinction between man-made planting and natural vegetation – how far does the role of the designer and green manager reach? Planting design can also provide ecosystem services and allow achieving goals of sustainability.
We may ask ourselves: is planting design always of ecological value? Does it need to be? And how do we creatively address ecological challenges such as invasive species?
Subtheme 5: Theory and practice
While not always apparent or intended, landscape designs embody certain values and ideas influenced by theoretical frameworks and design theory. In this sense, design-related theory can also actively add depth and meaning to places, and enrich contemporary landscape architectural practice. It can be beneficial to broaden the understanding of roles and responsibilities of our profession, in connection to related disciplines. Also, it might offer a framework for more well-considered and integrated landscape designs. Conversely, design practice can also broaden theoretical knowledge, illustrated by ‘research by/through/on design’ as respected research methods in our field. Are theory and practice in landscape architecture still interacting lively? If so, at which level or for which disciplines? Does it appeal to researchers, practitioners, educators, and even policy makers?
Subtheme 6: Teaching and learning
The current information society and its knowledge explosion makes it difficult for both teachers and students to handle a large volume of information, to navigate it, and to filter it. This poses conflicts in what to teach and how to teach it. Although lectures remain by far the most common form of teaching at universities, research shows students benefit only to a limited extent of being taught in this way. Therefore, teacher-centred education now goes hand in hand with more student-centred methods, such as problem-based learning. Do these teaching methods evolve in response to our changing society? Can we rely on learning processes, rather than on static knowledge? Within this conference subtheme, we want to exchange education experiences and discuss teaching and learning methods.
Subtheme 7: Conservation and development
Landscape heritage is often narrowed down to tangible objects, in a tourist honeypot of cathedrals, castles and historical gardens. Too often, the cultural landscape itself is overlooked. Landscape architecture might play a major role in raising awareness on the value or the potential of this heritage. Moreover, as a design discipline, it may shape future scenarios, balancing historical values with new societal claims. It requires landscape architecture to weigh up conservation and development, taking numerous claims and legislations into account. What knowledge and expertise should be elaborated in order to obtain this fragile respect for history and time depth?