Research field: Rural and Cultural Landscapes

European landscapes are in a state of flux. Political, social and economic change lead to both polarisations and homogenisations of life worlds and their landscapes. Growing or shrinking regions, intensified or extensified land uses, the return of energy production to the farmland, lead to new spatial divisions. The general urbanisation process, suburbanisation, the triumphal march of mobility, digital networks, flexibility and protest cultures lead to approximations of life worlds and landscapes as well as the industrialisation and the de-industrialisation processes do.

Given this situation, town planners as well as spatial planners turn to landscape architects hoping that the landscape could serve as a model for suburban and rural spatial development. But not landscape architects are the landscape doer. The urban land-use planning system, the infrastructure planning system, the agriculture and, last but not least, the nature conservation are the producers of contemporary landscape. Their mode of production follows the industrial logic (Henri Lefèbvre). It is the same logic that was written down in the Athens Charter and that damaged the European Town.

Urban planning and architecture have, in fact since the mid-1980s, again provided a comprehensive social discourse, and have achieved great progress in urban development by a critical reconstruction (Berlin IBA 1984-87) of urban structures and textures – the renewal of the “Europäische Stadt”. Without this turn against the industrial town, the European cities would not get back the appeal they have again without doubt. But the landscape doers still remain in the industrial logic.

To manage the new polarisations and homogenisation of life worlds and their landscapes, to ensure spatial social cohesion in periods of change, some ask to reactivate the idea of home country, others ask to create a new European idea. But both run into danger to approximate and to divide, to marginalise those who are beyond the community standards. Between homeland and Europe, lies ‘the landscape’. Landscape, being taken to mean as socio-spatial cohesion, can not divide or approximate, because landscape means coherence and difference. Regions with a shrinking population open up to new ‘space pioneers’ and immigrants - and booming regions can develop the faceless suburbs into worth living spaces - if the landscape attracts both, the newcomers and the natives.

So landscape could be, as well as Lefèbvre attributed it to the urban fabric, the intermediate level between the residential and the global level. It is landscape architecture that has to steer the landscape doers towards a critical reconstruction of the European Cultural Landscape.