Landscape discourse and iconography in Belgium

It has frequently been noted that the spatial appearance of the Belgian landscape is often an almost coincidental side-effect of non-spatial (socio-economical, political, agricultural, ...) aspirations rather than the result of a conscious planning. In comparison to the history of the city, the history of the landscape seems to depend even less on concrete or designed plans, but to consist of a nebula of varying ideas, expectations and practices.

The aim of my PhD research is to reveal the main discourses on landscape in Belgium between 1890 and 1940. It is the intention to outline a history of ideas, rather than to analyze the transformation of the physical landscape itself. During the period under study, the landscape was subjected to a process of accelerating modernization which gave cause to a fierce counter-discourse on landscape preservation. Thus, landscape representation is hardly ever neutral: discourses on landscape reflect an ongoing struggle to cope with modernity. The PhD takes the photographic representation of the landscape as a starting point to reveal the ideologies at stake. I investigate publications and photographic collections of varying origin, such as agricultural organizations, ministries, scientists, environmental organizations, tourist associations and photography clubs.

Apart from the PhD research, I am part of the Labo Stedenbouw (Laboratory for Urbanism), a research group that investigates the contemporary landscape. In particular, I am involved in 'Recollecting Landscapes', a rephotography project on the Flemish landscape by Jean Massart, Georges Charlier and Jan Kempenaers. I am also a member of GUST (Ghent Urban Studies Team).

Past events

25.02.2006 - 23.04.2006

Exposition 'Recollecting Landscapes', S.M.A.K. Ghent


Seminar 'Beelden van de buiten', Namiddagen van de Topografie, Brussels, organized by vzw Efemera, Hogeschool Sint-Lukas Brussels and the Vlaams Bouwmeester


Lecture 'Picturesque tourism. Bulletin du Touring Club de Belgique 1900 - 1914', Symposium The picturesque on the limits of modernity II : (de)multiplication and (un)reducibility, École d'Architecture de Paris-La Villette


Lecture 'Rephotographier les paysages flamands en transformation, 1904-2004', in Seminar Paysage urbain: genèse, representations, enjeux contemporains, Institut de Géographie - Université de Paris 1


Seminar 'Photography and Ideology', Namiddagen van de Topografie, Brussels, organized by vzw Efemera, Hogeschool Sint-Lukas Brussels and the Vlaams Bouwmeester


Lecture 'The Many Faces of Jean Massart', Joint Doctoral Seminar 9, Ghent, organized by the universities of Ghent, Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve


Lecture 'Landscape research', Academie voor Bouwkunst, Amsterdam


Lecture, 'From Monument to Landscape and Back Again', Symposium Tourist Traps, Ghent, organized by GUST (Ghent Urban Studies Team)


Workshop 'Recollecting Landscapes', Hogeschool Sint-Lukas Brussels


Bruno Notteboom, Pieter Uyttenhove, 'Een documentaire van het Vlaamse platteland. Fotografie van Jean Massart, Georges Charlier en Jan Kempenaers / A documentary of the Flemish Countyside. Photography of Jean Massart, Georges Charlier and Jan Kempenaers 1904-2003', Oase, 63, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, 2004, p. 14-31.

Bruno Notteboom, Pieter Uyttenhove, Pieter, 'Rephotographier les paysages flamands en transformation, 1904-2004', Les Carnets du Paysage, 12, Actes Sud et l'Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage, p. 150-175.

Bruno Notteboom, 'Een neutraal beeld bestaat niet. De fotografie van Jean Massart', in: P. Uyttenhove (red.), Recollecting Landscapes. Herfotografie, geheugen en transformatie 1904-1980-2004 (tentoonstellingscatalogus), Gent, A&S Books, 2006


Bruno Notteboom
Doctoral researcher at the University of Ghent
Sint-Jansplein 8 bus 8
2060 Antwerp

The University of Ghent
Department of Architecture and Urban Planning
Jozef Plateaustraat 22
9000 Ghent

T: +32 (0) 9 264.39.07
F: +32 (0) 9 264.41.85