Landscape and renewable energy: Designing for renewable energy policies in the Italian landscape architecture perspective (PhD research Silvia Minichino, 2011-2013)

Landscape and renewable energy: Designing for renewable energy policies in the Italian landscape architecture perspective (PhD research Silvia Minichino, 2011-2013)

Both, landscape and renewable energy are powerful and controversial concepts in conceiving transformations in society and built environment. On one hand, landscape is being considered strictly connected to renewable energy: it is an ‘agency’ (Selman, 2010), to discuss about energy transformations; it is a ‘people and polity place’ (Olwig, 1996) involved in public and private choices and finally it is a ‘medium and method for synthesis’ (Nassauer, 2012) in spatial planning and design. On the other hand, renewable energy is needed to achieve a sustainable transformations of the built environment in international and national policies (i.e. White Paper COM(97)599 final 26/11/1997).

In order to investigate the relationship between landscape and renewable energy, this research project reflects about the link between landscape architecture and renewable energy policy in designing sustainable energy landscapes. Accordingly, the main research statements are that landscape architecture, as discipline, can contribute to the sustainable implementation of renewable energy technologies (De von Back, 2010; Stremke and Van den Dobbelsteen, 2013), and that design is the core of landscape architecture discipline (Njhuis & Bobbink, 2012; Koh, 2013).

I consider two concepts proposed in literature in order to reflect on the controversial relationship between landscape and renewable energy: the first, ‘landscapes of energy’ (Nadai & van der Horst, 201o), refers to social and political agendas for landscape sciences; the second, ‘sustainable energy landscape’ (Stremke, 2010) looks at landscape planning and design. In order to study both the political and the design dimensions, I focus on the existing gap between renewable energy design and renewable energy policies from a landscape architecture perspective.

This research investigates several projects conducted by landscape architects who have started to deal with the emerging issue, designing energy landscapes in their professional practices. Projects are considered tools to analyze renewable energy policies. This research project’s overall objective is to settle the terms in which landscape architecture knowledge, used in renewable energy landscapes designing, informs renewable energy policies. In order to explore this proposition I compare Italian landscape architects projects with Dutch landscape architects works in designing renewable energy landscapes.

An overview on the European context shows that landscape architects deal with renewable energy design mainly as a technical issue. In the Netherland landscape architects are involved in designing renewable energy landscapes also from a more strategic perspective. Therefore these Dutch experiences are considered useful for Italian landscape architecture reflections about landscape architects’ role in energy-conscious landscape planning and design and meaning of landscape design in the construction of energy policies as well. This analysis is conducted making use of visual and written materials as well as interviews in order to put forward a design critique on renewable energy landscape designed by landscape architects.

The relationship between landscape and sectorial policies is a topic addressed by Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)3 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the guidelines for the implementation of the European Landscape Convention (Florence, 2000) which calls for integration of landscape in sectorial policies. «Landscape should be fully taken into account via appropriate procedures allowing systematic inclusion of the landscape dimension in all policies that influence the quality of a territory.» (CM/Rec(2008)3, part 1-F). This research project rephrases this consideration in the following proposition: landscape integration in energy policy can occur also through landscape architecture knowledge and landscape design. The scope of the research, finally, is Italian Landscape architecture.



De Von Beck, O. (2010), Distributed Renewable Energy Generation and Landscape Architecture: A Critical Review. All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 641.

Koh, J. (2013). On a landscape approach to design: and ecopoetic interpretation of landscape. Wageningen University Press

Nadaï A. & van der Horst D. (2010), Introduction: Landscapes of Energies, Landscape Research, 35:2, 143-155

Nassauer, J.I. (2012), Landscape as medium and method for synthesis in urban ecological design, Landscape and Urban Planning 106: 221– 229

Nijhuis, S., & Bobbink, I. (2012). Design-related research in landscape architecture. Journal of Design Research, 10:4, 239–257

Olwig, K.R. (1996),Recovering the substantive Nature of Landscape, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 86:4, 630-653.

Selman, P. (2010), Learning to Love the Landscapes of Carbon-Neutrality, Landscape Research, 35:2, 157-171

Stremke, S. & Koh, J. (2011). Integration of Ecological and Thermodynamic Concepts in the Design of Sustainable Energy Landscapes, Landscape Journal, 30:2, 194-2013

Stremke, S. & Van den Dobbelsteen, A.(eds.) (2013), Sustainable Energy Landscapes: Designing, Planning and Development, Boca Raton: CRC (Taylor & Francis Group).