A confident profession
When interviewing applicants for landscape architecture courses, I recommend three professional landscape magazines: one of them, German. I advise they look at Garten und Landschaft 'because Germany is a wealthier country, with more landscape architects and a longer established landscape profession than the UK - and, if you do not speak German, you can always look at the pictures'. But it is relatively difficult for nonGerman readers to really find out about the German profession. Now this book supplies us with understandable pictures (in colour).
A bilingual German/English publication by the Federation of German Landscape Architects (to mark its biennial landscape prizes), it gives a good insight into how the German landscape profession sees itself. It consists of seven essays, which sandwich a presentation of the prize-winning schemes of 2001. Of the prizewinners, some projects are familiar: the Latzs' Duisburg Nord Landschaftspark, the 2000 Hanover Expo gardens, and Richard Bodeker's Central Park, Riyadh.
But others are not well known in the UK.
Lohrer/Hochren's City of Munich Crematorium is impressively austere, while the spa park at Bad Saarow-Piesckow is a delightful piece of picturesque woodland design by Harald Fugmann and Martin Janotta. All these schemes are supremely competent constructions and designed with panache.
The joint first prize went to Joachim Kleiner for the delta of the River Reuss on Lake Lucerne and to Atelier Loidl for the reconstruction of Schinkel's Lustgarten, in front of the Altes Museum (left). City and countryside schemes represent what German landscape design is about. In 1935 the Schinkel design for the Lustgarten had been made into a parade ground, which the DDR had listed as a historic monument. Since 1994 there had been a series of competitions and designs for tackling this space, which debated whether or not to keep the topography of Hitlerjugend parades. The decision to do away with the parade ground is a reversal to an older Germany, but not uncritically so.
The River Reuss delta restoration also captures older cultural qualities. The river was canalised in 1851, and Joachim Kleiner has recreated the former lakeside ecology by making a delta, in an exercise of large-scale landscape engineering.
If the book is a sandwich, the substance is really in the wrapping of essays. These not only use the prize projects as evidence in a survey of current German landscape design, but include an interview of historical importance with Hans Luz (who designed at Osaka, 1970, and the Stuttgart BUGA of 1977).
The well-illustrated essays are contemplations on the meanings of landscapes, anthropological, climatic and post-industrial; the whole is a picture of a confident and very lively profession, whose work should be better known in the UK. This is a book for anyone seriously interested in landscape architecture, and it should certainly be bought by landscape school libraries.
Robert Holden teaches at the University of Greenwich