Landschapsarchitectuur NLnewsSteffen Nijhuis on design research in landscape architecture

Steffen Nijhuis on design research in landscape architecture


Steffen Nijhuis, research team leader of the landscape architecture group of Delft University of Technology, is the initiator of the Symposium ‘Design = Research’, which is organized by the DSL on November the 30th in Velp. In the run-up to the symposium we asked Nijhuis about his motivation for setting up the conference. “It is time to develop and firmen the foundation of our profession.”

Design as a form of research or design research: what are we talking about?

“There are quite different views about it in practice. The term “Research by design” is often used, both in practice and teaching, as well as in research. But what do we mean exactly? And are we talking about the same thing? There is still too little talk about that. It’s time for deepening the notion and development of a common vocabulary. Without that we remain in a standstill position as a discipline.”

A symposium, why?

“It’s a way to put the subject at the heart, to share views among a broad and diverse audience and seek common ground to move forward. As a professional discipline landscape architecture has a long and rich history, but in comparison, its research domain still needs further development. Meetings such as these contribute to this.”

What kind of audience are you aiming for?

“Above all we hope to see colleagues from practice, research and teaching and students in landscape architecture and design. If we conduct research as landscape architects, we have –as a design discipline and relatively young scientific discipline – often to defend ourselves. This symposium will provide arguments that will acknowledge the importance of design research in our domain and will enable us to position our field firmer. It will help us to be taken seriously as a profession. Important, because we like to do more than just make that beautiful drawing!”

What are you most curious about?

“I guess to the variety of views and interpretations of the notion by others. How is practice dealing with it and how is it used? What questions do they receive from contractors and what do they do exactly as they conduct research, how do they do it step by step? In fact, we think we know from each other what we do and how, but are these assumptions accurate? Are there still new outcomes and unexpected leads?”

When is the symposium a success?

“The fact that the symposium takes place is already a milestone. Design is an important activity which binds landscape architects. Therefore it is not surprising that we notice that the topic is extremely popular. We have applications from all places, from Groningen to Brussels, while the program has not yet been shared in the media. In all areas -practice, education and research- the topic titillates and there is a great need to give substance to the theme. That science, education and practice will engage in a dialogue together on this topic is already unique. That has never been done in landscape architecture or in any other design discipline. But we really want more than a one-time conversation, we don’t want to be a nine-day wonder. The aim is to maintain the energy level high and initiate a substantive process. The symposium is a starting point in that sense. Following the symposium, we talk in small committee how we can build an agenda with the outcomes, one that will contribute to the future development of the notion. All of this will also be good for the legitimacy of the Dutch School of Landscape Architecture. Something urgently needed in a time when every euro is twice turned.”


30 November 2016, Van Hall Larenstein University Velp, 13.00- 17.00h.


Admission is free of charge, please register: