Landscape Biography: background

A landscape biography tells the layered life story of a landscape: how it has developed in the continuous interaction between humans and nature. It comprises an in-depth exploration of the genesis of a landscape over time, involving both physical and immaterial dimensions and integrating knowledge from a variety of disciplines.

The concept was developed by, among others,  prof Jan Kolen, now Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology. From an academic viewpoint, the landscape biography may be regarded as an answer to reductionism and the growing gap between objectivist and constructivist approaches in landscape research. Furthermore, the landscape biography responds to the societal need to better integrate knowledge of landscape and heritage with the practice of planning and design, and to make more room for civic participation in local and regional planning policy.

Since the 1990s the concept has been further developed in various NWO projects and European research programs, in the realm of heritage, landscape, planning and design studies. As to current practice, in the Netherlands the landscape biography is now increasingly employed as a multidisciplinary and participative approach for environmental vision development at a local and regional level. In the coming years all Dutch municipalities will be working on integrated local visions for their physical environment, as obligatory part of the new Environmental Law. The landscape biography offers chances to combine a multidimensional and interdisciplinary approach with bottom-up civic participation.