NELA, the Network of European Landscape Architecture Archives was recently founded in Ås

NELA founding team at the ECLAS Conference 2010 in As, Norway. Photo: NELA team

A milestone event in the history of landscape architecture took place on 18 September 2019, when eight European landscape architecture archives joined forces to create an international network. The event took place near Oslo as part of the ECLAS Conference (European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools) and gives the discipline, which is now 100 years old, the necessary historical foundation to face future challenges in research, teaching, and design. It is particularly gratifying that the Austrian LArchiv at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, represented by Lilli Lička, Ulrike Krippner, and Roland Tusch, together with colleagues from Norway and Switzerland, is part of the international association’s founding team.

What was it like actually? Have you ever had to search for an original plan? Or needed information about a garden, a park, or a motorway? Did you want information about how the training programme was developed? Were you interested in a particular person? In the European landscape architecture archives, data and documents are expertly organized, stored, and made available to researchers, practitioners, and interested laypeople. However, landscape architecture has a good deal of ground to make up, as there are gaps in the historical narrative, in particular with regard to recent projects and figures in the field.

“Together, it will be easier for us to fill these gaps,” says Lilli Lička of the LArchiv, emphasizing how important it is to exchange ideas about content and organizational strategies at the European level to ensure continuity from the past to the present and from the present into the future.

Working with archives is an inspiring and effective educational approach

European network, international exchange, working in the archives, and public relations
Just as the landscape does not terminate at a border, styles and ways of working also have currency internationally. Social and natural problems are not simply local matters, contracts are awarded internationally. This means that not only does each of the national archives benefit from the network, but the process of exchange also leads to the cross-linking of information and the generation of new knowledge and insights. With regard to the network’s specific plans, Lička—who also opens the archive for BOKU courses—says, “We will also share our experience of working in the archive, so that our day-to-day work becomes easier and more effective.” Publications and exhibitions are to be created to improve visibility in society and communicate landscape architecture to the general public. “We make it easier for practitioners and researchers to access documents and archival holdings and devise joint research projects,” explains Ulrike Krippner, who is currently working on a “once-in-a-lifetime project”.

Danube Island project, 100 years of training, and Leberecht Migge
The original plans for Vienna’s Danube Island, drawn up by landscape architect Gottfried Hansjakob and a part of BOKU’s LArchiv holdings, represent a genuine treasure, one that, in the context of a centenary exhibition, can inform us about the origins of this important recreational green space. Annegreth Dietze-Schirdewahn, head of the archive at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, also laid the ground for a remarkable exhibition in 2019 to mark the hundredth anniversary of Europe’s first training centre for landscape architecture. Jenny Osuldsen, curator of the exhibition and landscape architect, who fronts the successful Snøhetta office, stresses the importance of archival work: “For us as practitioners, the past is just as important as the future. It enables us to develop further without having to constantly start all over again. There has been so much good work done already that can serve as a model for us!” The Swiss have discovered one of these role models in their archives—while processing their old holdings, they came upon the original garden plans drawn up by the famous social reformer Leberecht Migge in the period from 1910 to 1920. Migge was one of the first to devote himself to investigating the social functions of urban green space, and his work, which was thought to have been lost, has now been published.

Founders and Network
The initiative for founding the network came from the following archives: LArchiv, Archive of Austrian Landscape Architecture / University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna Lilli Lička, Ulrike Krippner, Roland Tusch, www.larchiv.at ASLA, Swiss Archive at HSR Rapperswil Hansjörg Gadient, Sophie von Schwerin, Simon Orga, www.asla.ch ANLA Historical Archive of Norwegian Landscape Architecture, NMBU Ås Annegreth Dietze-Schirdewahn, Bjørn Anders Fredriksen, http://blogg.nmbu.no/ila-samling

The network currently consists of eight archives from Austria, Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Belgium and is keen to include new members. A communication structure is being set up, content compiled, and project ideas developed. An annual meeting will provide a forum for personal exchange.

Contact for NELA: Annegreth Dietze-Schirdewahn, annegreth.dietze@nmbu.no

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