The history of landscape architecture itself can be traced back at least as far as the builders of the hanging gardens of Babylon, but as an academic discipline it is still fairly young.
The beginnings of the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools can be traced back to the beginnings of landscape education in Europe. The first European landscape architecture programme was established in Norway in 1919, to be followed by a course in Germany at Berlin in 1929.
In countries with a number of landscape schools, such as Great Britain and Germany, national education groups have been in existence for some time. The British Landscape Education Group was set up in the early 1970s, while the German Hochschulkonferenz Landschaft dates from the later part of the decade;
Within the Scandinavian countries there is a long history of Nordic co-operation, and staff from landscape schools in Denmark, Norway and Sweden have been holding regular international meetings for many years.
The establishment of the ERASMUS Programme by the European Union provided a basis for the further development co-operation between landscape schools within the countries of the European Union. From the earliest days a number of landscape schools, including Edinburgh College of Art, Wageningen, Aarhus and the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen, were involved in bilateral exchanges of both staff and students. Subsequently two more formal networks were established: one focussing on a series of “intensive programme” organised by ELEE and network set up by Manchester University in 1991.
The first pan-European meeting of landscape schools was convened by Berlin Technical University in 1989 under the title Europäische Hochschulkonferenz Landschaft. This was followed by a second meeting in Vienna in 1990.
The European Conference of Landscape Architecture Schools was formed as a result of the success of the Berlin and Vienna meetings and met first in Wageningen in the Netherlands in 1991. This meeting was followed by a series of further annual conferences.
At the 2000 Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, a decision was taken to expand the activities of ECLAS beyond the annual conferences and to symbolise this by changing the name of the organisation to the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools.
In 2006 ECLAS was incorporated as a not-for-profit member organisation under Dutch Law, with a formal set of statutes and standing orders. A new logo and corporate identity was designed at the same time.
Also in 2006 a major step forward was taken with the founding of the Journal of Landscape Architecture (JoLA), originally published by Callwey but transferred in 2011 to Routledge/Taylor and Francis. This has grown and developed and is now an established academic journal with high production values and is currently published in three issues per year.
In 2001 a major development took place, the funding of a Thematic Network project via the EU Culture programme called “Le:Notre”, which ran through 6 versions – Le:Notre, Le:Notre+, Le:NotreTWO, Le:Notr eMundus, Le:NotreTWO+ and finally Le:Notre THREE. This finally finished in 2013 when the LeNotre Institute (LNI) was founded to take over the assets and to act as the “foreign policy” arm of ECLAS, engaging with the “neighbouring disciplines. The annual Landscape Forum is held each spring and focuses on a particular city and its environs. In 2012 the first such forum took place in Antalya, Turkey, followed in 2013 in Rome, Italy and in 2014 in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzogovina.
From 2012 in preparation for the ending of the Le:Notre projects a business plan was drawn up and a number of projects set up. In addition to the annual conference, the LNI and JoLA, ECLAS has organised a group of the Heads of Schools (or departments, faculties, programmes etc) in order to focus on the key people responsible for running landscape architecture education, has started a series of books to be published by Routledge, runs doctoral colloquia in association with the conference in order to support young academics and has also started an annual awards scheme to celebrate excellence in landscape architecture and research.