This year we celebrate 100 years Wageningen University, but wat about 100 years of landscape architecture in Wageningen? As landscape architects we have to be conscious of the tradition we stand in, and who’s shoulders we stand on. To refresh our memory Topos asked Michael van Buuren (Alterra) to write this article about 100 years of landscape architecture in Wageningen. Here is part 1, next week part 2.
As is always the case in Academia, it is a matter of definition how to answer this question. I do not intend to define “Landscape Architecture” nor its relation to “Garden Art” … In response to a request of the TOPOS editors, I try to throw some light on the matter if we should or should not speak of “hundred years” of Landscape Architecture in Wageningen. When you take the position that we should not worry on the exact definition and consider Garden Art and Landscape Architecture as two branches of the same “old profession, but young academic discipline”, the answer is YES. Formally, though, Landscape Architecture as an independent academic course started in 1946; so if you define its genesis in this way, the answer is NO. In this article, I describe a history of the discipline, giving you information to make up your own mind. For this I use a timetable based on the foremen, I’m sorry ladies, of the group.
1897 – 1900: Leonard Springer (primarily based on: Moes, 2002)
In 1897 Leonard Anthony Springer, Amsterdam 1855 –Haarlem 1940, was appointed as the first Garden Art teacher in Wageningen. At that moment, the Wageningen School had not an academic status. In fact when Springer started his lessons, Wageningen counted two state funded institutions: the “Rijkslandbouwschool” (for agriculture; founded in 1876) and the newly founded ”Rijkstuinbouwschool” (for horticulture from 1896). Springer found his place at the school for Horticulture, that was located on the Bergweg / Gen. Foulkesweg 37. In those days, after two years of school, the students could graduate as “Garden Artist”. Some of them choose to a further “scientific” education in one of the other contemporary disciplines in Wageningen.
Not long after he started, Springer left the school again in 1900. He was – as were some of his successors in later days – disappointed about the intellectual level of his students. Teaching tended not to be his vocation. In spite of this, his influence was great. He is not only the main designer of many parks and gardens (e.g. the Oosterpark and Ooster Begraafplaats in Amsterdam and the Belmonte Arboretum in Wageningen), he published important books on Dendrology and Garden Art and was one of the founding fathers of the Dutch Association for Landscape Architects (BNT in 1922; now known as NVTL). Springer left his archive to the Wageningen Library, which is the core of the existing collection of Garden Art and Landscape Architecture at the Special Collections of the WUR Library.
1900 – 1935: Hartogh Heys Van Zouteveen (primarily based on Debie, 2014)
In 1900 Hendrik François Hartogh Heys Van Zouteveen (Delft 1870 – Wageningen 1945), alumnus from the Horticultural School in 1894 in Vilvoorde (Belgium), followed Springer. In 1897 Van Zouteveen was passed in favour of his more experienced and famous predecessor. After a short period as a garden architect (projects mainly in Amersfoort) he became a teacher and from 1918 – when our present university was born – a Lector in Garden Architecture and Garden Art.
One of the reasons for Van Zouteveen’s renewed application, was the lack of sufficient knowledge and appreciation of his profession among colleagues and the general public. So he started his teaching from the conviction that he would only “commit to the practical profession to prevent himself of becoming too theoretical” (translation by author). Doing so, he stressed the importance for an academic, to keep a close – but not too close – contact with the professional practice.
Van Zouteveen would teach his classes for a period of 35 years, in which he provided a fundament for the later course of Garden- and Landscape Architecture. He wrote 22 publications, amongst which his most well-known is “Boomen en heesters in parken en tuinen” (Trees and shrubs in parks and gardens). Further on, Van Zouteveen stimulated the relation between Garden Architecture and Urbanism and introduced the education of technical skills as hand-drawing and land surveying. In 1928, when a discussion started if and where in The Netherlands to establish a real academic education, Van Zouteveen wrote a passionate plea for Wageningen. And so it happened, but not for another 20 years.
1936 – 1966: Bijhouwer (primarily based on Andela, 2011)
Dr. Jan Tijs Pieter Bijhouwer (Amsterdam 1898 – Bennekom 1974) studied horticulture in Wageningen and wrote his dissertation “Geobotanische studie van de Berger duinen” (Geobotanical study of the dunes in Bergen) in 1926. In 1936 he followed his mentor Van Zouteveen in teaching Garden Art. First on a temporary basis, later in a permanent position. In 1939 he was appointed as Lector and his teaching broadened with the addition of “Horticulture Handdrawing” and “Garden Architecture”. Bijhouwer valued observation and visualisation (by drawing and models) as fundamental aspects of his profession. In his publications (e.g. “Waarnemen en Ontwerpen” – Observation and Design from 1954) he stressed the importance of being able to draw different compositions and alternatives and to reflect on it. But also as a means for communication with the clients and contractors. Learning by seeing and testing different “mass-space” compositions was an important part of Bijhouwer’s teaching.
Due to his professional practice – that he kept going next to his teaching activities – and contacts with temporary architects, urbanist and scientists, Bijhouwer felt attracted to the modernist movement that arouse during the Interbellum. He regularly published in the modernist journal “De 8 en Opbouw” and was influenced by the “fundamental design” studio – based on the Bauhaus principles – during his stay at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, USA. His connection to the modernist movement also strengthened his conviction that garden- and landscape architects should be taught to combine “scientific insights” with creative skills. Het stated that aesthetics should certainly be part of his curriculum and he looked for pupils with an “inborn creative capacity”. In his vision, these student were able to develop the necessary scientific insights by intensive studies and in that way becominging good Garden Architects. His famous book “Het Nederlandse Landschap” (The Dutch Landscapes and its old reclamations) from 1945 (first edition) reflects his ambition to look at and understand landscapes, starting with their natural ánd man-made origins.
In line with this conviction, already in the late thirties, Bijhouwer followed Van Zouteveen’s pledge to establish a special academic study for Garden and Landscape Architects. Mainly due to practical reasons – Springers Arboretum and Library, the existing knowledge of agricultural and horticultural sciences – Wageningen instead of Delft was chosen to be the place for this new line of education. In September 1946, five months after Bijhouwer’s application as the first Dutch Professor of Garden and Landscape Architecture, the equally named study started. The formal approval by the Ministry of Agriculture followed in 1948 (the year that , so far, but in fact incorrectly, has been used to define the study’s anniversaries).
Bijhouwer’s teaching used to be very informal. Sitting on the edge of the table, smoking cigarettes he taught his classes, using his own experiences, famous examples and telling stories. Students got assignments, starting with a detailed scale up to large areas. He judged the students work primarily by approving or disapproving, almost without any explanation. You had to find out by yourself. Luckily, the time for that was ample compared to present standards .A formal program, nor textbooks or other documents, were at hand, apart from Bijhouwer’s own publications. The highlights existed of the many excursions Bijhouwer and his students made to see and discuss the great examples from past and present. “Teaching is not a mass-production matter” was his maxim; a perspective that should still be taken wholeheartedly in present times…
So, when the number of students tended to grow, forcing him to organise his teaching in a more formal way, he decided to say goodbye to the university on the second November of 1966. By the way, Bijhouwer hold a chair as extraordinary professor Landscape Architecture in Delft from 1946 to 1968.
Andela, G. (2011). J.T.P. Bijhouwer; grensverleggend landschapsarchitect. Uitgeverij 010, Rotterdam. Bijhouwer, J.T.P., (1926). Geobotanische studie van de Berger duinen. Proefschrift. Ijsel, Deventer. Bijhouwer, J.T.P., (1941). Wageningse Vestinggordel. In: Tijdschrift voor Tijdschrift voor Volkshuisvesting en Stedebouw, 1941, nr.6. Bijhouwer, J.T.P., (1947). Een bodemkartering ten behoeve van de stedebouw. In: Tijdschrift voor Tijdschrift voor Volkshuisvesting en Stedebouw, 1941, nr.3. Bijhouwer, J.T.P., (1954). Waarnemen en Ontwerpen. Wageningen. Bijhouwer, J.T.P. (1971). Het Nederlandse Landschap. Kosmos, Amsterdam|Antwerpen. Debie, P. (2014). Tuinarchitect H.F. Hartogh Heys van Zouteveen; een beknopt biografisch overzicht. In: Casacade 23, nr.1. Hartogh Heys van Zouteveen, H.F. (1908). Boomen en heesters in parken en tuinen: beschrijving van de voornaamste soorten en varieteiten van loofbomen, heesters en kegeldragende gewassen ten dienste van vaklieden en liefhebbers. Van Belkum, Zutphen. Moes, C.D.H. (2002). L.A. Springer; tuinarchitect, dendroloog. De Hef.