Study report on the importance of archiving garden and landscape architecture
In a densely populated, economically productive country like the Netherlands, situated at a low elevation in a dynamic delta, the cities and countryside are constantly changing. Part of this process is spontaneous, but more often the changes are driven by design. Large parts of the Netherlands can be regarded as designed landscapes: from gardens to polders, from urban plazas to highways and from new housing developments to river embankments.
Just as the designed landscape has significance from a heritage perspective, so does its documentation. Proper archiving – the collecting and cataloguing of materials and making them accessible – is essential in accounting for our interactions with the environment in which we live. It is a precondition for knowledge accumulation and innovation.
In addition, there is a historical importance. The designed landscape tells us how we have related to our environment over time and how this has helped to shape our identity. Archives help the public, clients, designers and government bodies to recognise that heritage value.
And there is a practical significance: the memory of the designed landscape is essential to enable us to act in an informed fashion both now and in the future. Good archiving helps to do justice to the wealth of the existing designed landscape, to safeguard expertise and to involve the public in decision-making about future changes.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has asked Het Nieuwe Instituut to conduct a study into how to approach the archives of garden and landscape architects as a heritage task. To this end, we have held numerous discussions with the interested parties in order to collate their knowledge, garner their opinions and gauge their expectations regarding these archives. These recommendations are addressed primarily to the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, but they also provide other interested parties with a framework within which they can contribute in the years to come.
The study has resulted in six recommendations, which are substantiated in the report:
- Anchor the archiving of garden and landscape architecture in cultural and heritage policy.
- Work towards a network of Garden and Landscape Architecture Archives.
- Ensure expert coordination of the network.
- Choose a programmatic approach.
- Start immediately with clear and targeted goals for improvement.
- Foster an archival culture around the designed landscape within government bodies and the professional community and among interested members of the public.
Time and structural funding are needed to create a network of Garden and Landscape Architecture Archives. Meanwhile, there is now enthusiasm among the parties in the field and there are urgent issues that require immediate action. Reason enough to initiate a follow-up process as soon as possible as a link between this study and the prospect of a facility that will house the archives. The follow-up process could begin in 2021 as the next phase of imagining what the organisational, substantive and financial framework for Garden and Landscape Architecture Archives could look like.
It is important to appoint a party that can become the central point of contact in the network. As one of the two institutions with a clearly defined collection of garden and landscape architecture, Het Nieuwe Instituut has indicated that it wishes to fulfil this coordinating role. A scout or forerunner can show how the various partners can work together and what role the central contact point should play.
Until further notice, the contact address for all matters regarding the investigation is email@example.com
Het Nieuwe Instituut as national heritage institution
As a national heritage institution, Het Nieuwe Instituut preserves the history of architecture, design and digital culture. We are committed to viewing that history from different perspectives. In the investigation into a possible network of Garden and Landscape Architecture Archives, we approach garden and landscape architecture not only from the perspectives of architecture and urban planning but also as an autonomous discipline with its own design vision. Moreover, the investigation embraces not only archives of garden and landscape architects but also those archives created by bodies involved in the creation, layout and design of the landscape, such as water boards and organisations involved in nature conservation.
Het Nieuwe Instituut manages the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning, but is also committed to the decentralised management of and access to other archives from the design domain, for example through the Network of Design and Digital Culture Archives.
New Study Launched into Collection Policy for Garden and Landscape Architecture Archives
The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has commissioned Het Nieuwe Instituut to undertake a study into a potential collection policy for archives relating to garden architecture and landscape architecture. There is currently no clearly defined repository for these materials. This makes it difficult for them to find their way to cultural institutions, with the attendant risk of their becoming fragmented or lost. This situation arises from the lack of a shared vision of the cultural value of this heritage.
Network Archives Design and Digital Culture
Design and digital culture contribute significantly to the way Dutch society defines, manifests and develops itself. A well-preserved, open and accessible archive is therefore a precondition for the design discipline in order to meet the task assigned to it by Dutch culture and society. The Network Archives Design and Digital Culture has therefore been created as a partnership between heritage organisations including Het Nieuwe Instituut, knowledge and research institutions, and individual archives of Dutch design heritage.