Jan WoudstraJan Woudstra PhD, MA (Cons), Dip Hort (Kew)

Reader in Landscape History and Theory
Telephone: 0114 222 0609
Floor 12, The Arts Tower

email : j.woudstra@sheffield.ac.uk

Biography


Following his training in landscape design, horticulture and conservation at Frederiksoord, the Netherlands, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and at the University of York, Jan worked as a landscape architect and historian. Initially in landscape consultancy, he was employed with Travers Morgan in London, contributing to some of the largest conservation schemes of the time, including the restoration of Chiswick House Grounds and the reconstruction of the Privy Garden at Hampton Court Palace that was completed with his own practice EDA Environmental Design Associates in 1995. He simultaneously studied at the Department of Geography of University College London, completing his PhD entitled `Landscape for Living, Landscape theory and design of the Modern Movement´ in 1997. From 1988 he has taught on a part time basis at the course `Conservation of Historic Parks and Gardens´, later re-named as `Landscape Conservation and Change´, at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and has been employed at the University of Sheffield since 1995, where he teaches landscape architecture and history. He was Honorary Editor of Garden History from 1998 to 2005.

Research interests


Jan´s research activity has been guided by a general concern for the quality of the built environment. It has aimed to increase knowledge within the landscape profession and to challenge perceived notions about landscape design and research. This has included turning practical issues, which unlike theoretical discourse were not previously considered as a suitable academic subject, into internationally recognized scholarship. For example, research in the history of planting design has been pioneering and it informs and challenges notions of innovation. Yet there has also been research into theoretical issues, in order to encourage different approaches and attitudes in the profession.

History and theory of the modern movement in landscape architecture

One of Jan´s main interests, which was also the subject of his PhD, is the exploration of international design trends during the twentieth century in order to achieve a fuller understanding of contemporary philosophy and the processes of design. This is done via the work of individual designers and selected design projects. Research projects include the analysis of designed landscapes, exploring such landscape architects as Leberecht Migge, Heinrich Friedrich Wiepking-Jürgensmann, Hermann Mattern, Wim Boer, Jan Bijhouwer, Mien Ruys, Christopher Tunnard and Peter Shepheard. Some of this work is undertaken in association with Professor Peter Blundell Jones, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield and concentrates specifically on domestic scale schemes on which both modernist landscape architects and architects have contributed. Critical reviews of past housing landscapes have been undertaken and include the work of Peter Shepheard and of Span/ Eric Lyons.

Large scale comparisons of international trends; the issue of memory
With a considerable understanding of modernist fashions it is possible to put current trends in context. Jan´s perspective with reference to landscape architecture is with respect to `working with the existing´, as opposed to providing fashionable `new carpet´ approaches that treat any site as a blank sheet, thereby lacking references and thus meaning. His subject area reflects both conservation issues and new design, at various levels and scales. This is important as it embraces not only issues of memory and authenticity, but also sustainability, ecological diversity and social equitability. Research in this field aims to make a profound impact on the landscape profession by influencing both theory and practice and has included the following:
• general assessments and analyses of current trends in landscape design; parks, gardens and housing
• attitudes and approaches to landscape and garden heritage
• detailed analysis of the work of individual designers within their context; thus far a number of landscape architects have been subjected to critical review: Henry Wise (forthcoming), Daniel Marot, Lewis Kennedy and Robert Marnock, besides the aforementioned modernist designers.

History of hard landscape detailing and planting design

An important aspect in the success of designed landscapes is appropriate landscape detailing, combined with adequate maintenance. Like with anything else fashions evolve, and as they do our perception of appropriate detailing changes and historic methods of maintenance are forgotten. As a result even historically important `heritage´ landscapes change, and it is this aspect that requires to be guided by a full understanding of the implications of change, which for this reason merits separate study. Initially Jan´s research in this field was led by conservation work he was undertaking while in private practice and concentrated on detailed analysis of fashions in planting design and hard landscape detailing in order to repair or reconstruct them. Lately research in this field has been directed towards assisting the improvement and refining of archaeological techniques, by working in co-operation with archaeologists.

To a large extent the above fields are intertwined, which can be illustrated by a list of recent publications:

Current research supervision

The Department of Landscape has in recent years built up a considerable research community, where a considerable range of new research is being undertaken in the field of Jan´s research interests.
Recent research supervision includes:

  • Claudia Leticia Martínez Velarde, ‘Landscape-led approaches for the regeneration of low-income housing: A cross cultural assessment of social and ecological sustainability’, PhD, 2010
  • Lei Gao, ‘Breaking and repairing’: Conflicting values in the historic gardens of China’, PhD, 2010
  • Kairan Li, ‘Landscape improvement and Scenic Sites in pre-modern China: a critical review’, PhD, 2009
  • Sang Jung Yoon, ‘History and conservation of gardens in Korea’, PhD, 2009
  • Vivienne Rose Parrott, ‘Moon, magic and Elysium: A study of the design of Uraniborg, the observatory and home of Tycho Brahe on the island of Hven, Denmark (1576-1597)’, MPhil, 2008
  • Jijun Zhao, ‘Thirty years of landscape design in China (1949-1979): The era of Mao Zedong’, PhD, 2008

Current research supervision includes the following topics:

  • History and development of Scenic Sites in Korea
  • Garden typologies and urban development in Shanghai (1850- 2010)