Third years delve into water at Bavarian summer school

Third year undergraduates from the Department of Landscape Architecture have explored the importance of water in the landscape, during a nine-day summer school in Bavaria, led by Dr Jan Woudstra.

Third year landscape architecture students during the summer school in Bavaria

The summer school, to the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences, focussed on the impacts of flooding, drought and pollution, and how – in the time of climate emergency – these are paramount in landscape architecture proposals.

19 students from our BA and BSc Landscape Architecture courses were tasked with designing solutions for Dachauer Moos, an area historically covered with peatland, as well as sections of the disused Schleissheim Canal.

They presented their designs to local stakeholders, including Robert Rossa and Brigit Rasenberger of the Verein Dachauer Moos, Stefan Tischer the Head of the Greenspace and Environment Department of Dachau City, Walter Demel, who provided technical assistance and summer school organisers Julia Daschner and Olaf Schroth.

A programme of site visits and guided tours saw the group explore Freising, Munich and the Dachau concentration camp, as well as enjoy trips to Neuschwanstein – the fairy-tale castle of King Ludwig II – and the national beauty spot of Lake Königssee.

The trip took place between 17 and 25 September. Department of Landscape Architecture Historian, Dr Jan Woudstra, reports on the experience.

Landscape Architecture students at the Summer School in Bavaria

Summer school

The Summer School looked at the Dachauer Moos, an area historically covered with peatland, which has been largely excavated for fuel and for use in horticulture and was subsequently used for agricultural purposes. This was initially done at a small scale, but the construction of a series of canals at the end of the seventeenth century precipitated the process.

The canals were dug by Turkish prisoners of war during 1690/1 and connected Schleissheim, a much-extended palace of the Elector Max Emanuel (r. 1679–1726) at the edge of the moor, with Munich, initially enabling transport of building material, but intended for comfortable boat journeys between his various residences, including Nymphenburg at the edge of Munich.

The Schleissheim Canal also encouraged further drainage canals and peat digging became the pastime and provided the local character and identity, with land reclaimed for agricultural purposes, and, more recently, for urban development.

In their projects the students were asked to look at various sections of the Schleissheim Canal, which is now disused and though substantial sections survive and it is now classified as a protected ‘monument’, others have been filled in and planted up in the 1950s. The solutions addressed many of the big issues of climate change, population growth and heritage."

Third year landscape architecture students during the summer school in Bavaria

Student projects

"One group with Zac Willitts, James Duckett, Marco-Chung Ming Yao and James Horne proposed to restore the peatland, and the creation of paludiculture, i.e. wet agriculture and forestry on peatland while maintaining carbon storage, and creating a visitor centre and carpark to generate revenue.

A group with Ellen Hughes, Anna Livingstone, Hannah Gibb and Alex Cosens emphasised the desire to protect remaining peatland through emphasising the importance as a carbon store and using four filled-in sections as demonstration zones of natural processes engaging the general public with filtration of nutrients and bacterial, as well as phyto-remediation.

A group with Benyn Dayao, Kayan Man, Angeline Aspacio and Charlotte Wong drew on the history as part of the northern Munich canal system and the ‘Malweiber’, a group of romantic female painters, who in the late nineteenth century focussed their efforts on this area. This inspired the students to use modern art to create a narrative, thus re-engaging a connection with the local population and creating space for wildlife on the track of the old canal.

The group with Allan-Zixuan Wang, Jierui Lui and Graig-Gaohui Zheng noted how the recent expansion of the Munich region, with extensive development greatly extending Dachau with thousands of homes, had created a car dominated environment that was noisy and created pollution. Their project was an attempt to reduce car usage through centralised parking, and thus encourage a pedestrian environment in which the areas of the filled-in urban sections of the canal would function as demonstration areas and benefit health and well-being.

A final project by Ran Tao, Lilly Wright, Anastasia-Shuting Bao and Yalin Kuyumcu-Kominami emphasised the rich history of the site, the water mills, the baroque canal system, and the power balance as represented both in people and technology. The team envisioned to reconnect the visual and physical history, to repurpose the water to benefit both biodiversity and people, and restructure governance with an emphasis on engineering natural processes while focussing on carbon sequestration."

Third year landscape architecture students during the summer school in Bavaria


"These projects were presented to local stakeholders in the environmental centre of the Dachauer Moos e.V., a society that protects the remaining moorland near Dachau from development together with an organic farm, which operates sustainably on the peatland. Thus concluded a study that provided creative solutions to an issue that is part of a Living Lab, a series of workshops on the Dachau Moos.

This study could of course not have been concluded without basic understanding of the history of the site, its context and contemporary development pressures. These were helpfully provided through visits, guided tours and local staff.

It remains to recognise the association of the site in the context of the Second World War, during which the Dachau Concentration Camp used one of the channels as a boundary.

A full understanding was not complete without a site visit, which revealed a painful period in modern history through surviving buildings, reconstructed buildings and monuments on the core of the original site. Further areas have been developed for other purposes, with an irony of row of detached houses overlooking the former camp prison on the west side. This reveals that such ‘associative landscapes’ may not be as painful to some local residents as this one continues to be for the tens of thousands who annually visit the site in an attempt to understand the atrocities committed here and to atone."

Third year landscape architecture students during the summer school in Bavaria

Guided tours

"Besides the workshop, the students enjoyed a programme of site visits. Throughout it, there was a continued emphasis in places chosen upon the contribution of water in the landscape, with the latter visit particularly to support the awareness of the enormously reduced quantities of snow and thus water exuded from the alpine glaciers, which with the droughts have this year brought the rivers Donau and Rhine to a 500-year low. Unable to support goods traffic this has now shifted to roads and trains, changing the landscape, maybe forever.

The Summer School was organised by Julia Daschner of the International Office at the University of Applied Sciences at Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, in collaboration with Olaf Schroth of the Faculty of Landscape Architecture and myself.

It was subsidised by the Bavarian State to encourage collaboration and student exchange with Great Britain after Brexit. Future Bavarian funding of this three-year project will be used to enable German students to participate in an exchange to Sheffield."