FUTURE HISTORY: Teaching history in landscape schools

A meeting of universities and schools to discuss history teaching for landscape architecture to be held at the University of Sheffield on 8 and 9 September 2022. Organised by Jan Woudstra and Robert Holden for FOLAR.

Future History: Teaching history in landscape schools

What history should we narrate in the education of landscape architects? How should we engage students in the history of their chosen profession? What methods and tools can be devised to improve student engagement in history teaching? What resources do we need to improve history teaching?

Future History is aimed at those involved or interested in delivering the history of the profession. It seeks to provide an opportunity for discussion to enable guidance to be articulated, and provide ways to reinvigorate engagement with history, not just to benefit students and professionals, but also to provide a more in-depth perspective for the benefit of and closer connection with society more generally.

The conference will run over two days; the first day - Thursday 8 September - will consist of an exploration of different philosophes and ideas in teaching of history. There will be eight different contributions, presented as four pairs, with contrasting views that provide a basis for discussions.

The second day - Friday 9 September - will primarily consist of focussed discussions. These discussions will be organised by theme, to enable sharing of best practice and in-depth exploration of issues. Each discussion will be preceded by three short positioning papers of five minutes each. We will continue to compile and vote on a ‘Declaration on Teaching History in Landscape Schools’, which is ultimately to be developed into a Manifesto.

We feel it is important to organise this conference as a physical event, since this enables forthright discussions and exploration of themes and issues. However we have had requests to hold it online as well, so we will adopt a hybrid form, of both attendance and presentation.

A range of hotel options are available, many with discounted rates for Sheffield Alumni.

The proceedings will be published by Routledge as a set of edited papers that will be useful for anyone involved with teaching history.

j.woudstra@sheffield.ac.uk and robertholden13@aol.com

 Book tickets nowConference proceedings

Future History: Teaching history in landscape schools

Within the past couple of years, the perception of the profession of landscape architecture and its contribution to the environment is more and more coming to reflect societal issues and environmental justice. This extends to the stories we tell.

Within the field of landscape architecture it has been customary, after explaining the various terms and exploring the origins of the word landscape, to narrate the development chronologically.

But rather than investigating trends in the vernacular landscape, we tend to concentrate on what happened in and follow the fashions of the gardens of nobility. That is until the nineteenth century, when we can investigate the making of public parks, and we continue to diverge into public landscape of cities when we move into the twentieth century. This seemed to reflect the order of things, but also the source material available. While ‘gardens’ within ‘landscape architecture’ have often been derided, they have continued to be a way to express the notion of styles in historic narration; Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Augustan, Brownian, Picturesque, Reptonian, Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Modernism, etc.

History is important as a basis to any profession, as a point of reference, and in our case, as an inspiration for new design. No self-assured profession should avoid facing up to its past

Dr Jan Woudstra

As with other aspects in society the #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and decolonisation have in the last couple of years brought the focus onto landscape histories also, and aspects accepted as a matter of fact previously are now critically questioned. The houses and gardens of nobility are male and white and are now presented as an expression of colonial exploitation and suppression. Their use in historic narrative ought to be carefully considered; should it be restricted?

Clearly it is not whether we should respond to these international trends, but how: How then should we (re)present the history of landscape design? In addition, the climate urgency has put a new perspective on the profession which puts past designs and practices in a different perspective.

Some landscape schools have avoided these issues altogether and have stopped teaching history, an act of capitulation which in the current context can also be interpreted as unacceptable, but it unfortunately reflects a general trend where student interest in history is waning. Yet history is important as a basis to any profession, as a point of reference, and in our case, as an inspiration for new design, and no self-assured profession should avoid facing up to its past. Should we not use learning from the past as a prerogative to improve future landscapes and make them more sustainable?

Grey to Green, Sheffield

Champions of Landscape Architecture

As the UK’s only independent department of Landscape Architecture, we are passionate about the power of our profession to address pressing global issues.