Learning Landscapes

Collective visioning for shared spaces

Learning Landscapes (LeLa) is a two-year ERASMUS+ Strategic Partnership coordinated by the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Slovakia with partners in Croatia, Poland and the Netherlands. The project aims to support capacity building for democratic visioning in the context of spatial design education. The approach builds on an emerging methodology called the ‘Learning Landscapes Process’ and uses participatory digital tools for collective knowledge sharing in the ‘Learning landscapes Online Labs’. The project started in September 2020 and will finish in August 2022.

The main idea is to design a new format for collective visioning based on an innovative partnership of academia, the public sector and planning professionals with civil society. Underpinning this understanding of the landscape is the European Landscape Convention’s definition of landscape as ‘an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors’ (Council of Europe, 2000). We built on the idea that the local landscape is the actual forum for democratic community visioning.

Project objectives

  • To open universities to their communities in three regional contexts: Zagreb, Bratislava and Gdansk
  • To prepare university staff members for their role as facilitators who are actively shaping the ‘learning landscapes process’ in an inclusive, empowering and democratic way.
  • To include our students, the future generation of European planners and designers, into this process by adding an inclusive blended learning format to the ‘learning landscapes process’.
  • To open up the ‘learning landscapes process’ to civil society by various means such as local design charrettes, open online lecture series, collaborative mapping activities, landscape walks and storytelling events.
  • To create and share knowledge by documenting the learning landscapes methodology as an open educational resource.

Project locations and relation to the LE:NOTRE landscape forum

The Learning Landscapes project is implemented in close coordination with the annual landscape from of the LE:NOTRE Institute, one of the project partners. Therefore, the host institutions of the 2019 forum in Zagreb and the 2020 cross-border forum in Bratislava are participating, as well as the 2021 forum host, the University of Fine Arts in Gdansk. Each university is collaborating with a local NGO to ensure close relation to communities, citizens and stakeholders.

The three forum locations provide the basis for a new dialogue and knowledge sharing process:

  • The community of Sesvete, part of the urban agglomeration of Zagreb in Croatia. Sesvete is already in a process of community-based green space development. In addition, the wider green and blue infrastructure development of Zagreb, as discussed during the landscape forum in 2019, will be revisited and deepened in workshops and student projects.
  • The cross-border area east of Bratislava in Slovakai brings the urban periphery of a European capital together with rural areas on the Austrian and Hungarian sides. The Universities of Nitra and Bratislava will follow-up on the process that started in fall 2019 with the international student competition and the digital landscape forum held in April 2020.
  • The coastal landscape of Gdansk and its agglomeration is the focus of the 2021 landscape forum. The student competition is focusing on the Port Island as a landscape of transition facing multiple challenges. The topic has been addressed in an international lecture series in fall 2020, preparing for the upcoming landscape forum.

Workshops and dissemination activities

  • International workshops in Gdansk (2021) and Bratislava (2022). These events will take the form of design charrettes with strong community involvement.
  • Two dissemination events, one linked to the landscape forum in Gdansk in 2021 and one hosted by the University of Zagreb in summer 2022.

Project outputs

  • A handbook on the learning landscapes process and its methodology and on the staff development process: The Learning Landscapes Process (Output 1)
  • Three web-based interactive platforms documenting the Learning Landscapes process at each location and facilitating its follow-up activities in a cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary partnership: Learning Landscapes Online Labs (Output 2)
  • Substantial capacity and skills development among the core target groups of the ‘Learning Landscapes’ project, which will be transferable to other European audiences and future forum locations.

Target groups

The target groups of the Learning Landscapes project are university staff and students, local community stakeholders such as cultural representatives, educational institutions, NGOs, policy-makers, administrations and local community associations. Through the ‘Learning Landscapes Process’ the project will also address members from civil society in general and specific social groups such as school students, the elderly, youth in general, ethnic groups or refugees.

Project partners:

Slovakia

  • Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra (project coordinator)
  • Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava
  • NGO-Partner: Ecopolis

Croatia

  • University of Zagreb, Faculty of Agriculture, Department for Ornamental Plants, Landscape Architecture and Garden Art
  • NGO-Partner: Green Blue Sesvete

Poland

  • Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk
  • Gdansk Urban Development Association (FRAG)

The Netherlands

  • LE:NOTRE Institute