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Botanical Gardens and the Urban Future

Oak Room, Fellowship House
November 2, 2018
09:00 AM to 06:00 PM
Garden and Landscape Studies Colloquium, John Beardsley and Anatole Tchikine, Organizers

For the 2018 fall colloquium, Garden and Landscape Studies, in collaboration with New York Botanical Garden, will bring together a group of historians, landscape designers, and scientists to discuss the changing role of botanical gardens (including arboreta) in the urban context as both landscapes and research and public institutions. Of particular interest is the role of design in helping botanical gardens meet the challenge of operating as educational and community resources while maintaining their traditional focus on the preservation and study of plants. Historically, botanical gardens proved to be a very adaptable and resilient type, serving as repositories of materia medica, teaching or taxonomical aids, and centers for plan acclimatization in the context of colonial botany. What are the likely scenarios for their development in the future? What are the most effective ways in which they could communicate ideas about nature to city dwellers at the age of advanced urbanization and climate change? What role could historical scholarship of botanical gardens play in this regard?


  • Sheila Brady (Oehme, van Sweden), Designing botanical gardens to advance their scientific and educational missions: Chicago and New York Botanical Gardens
  • Peter Crane (Oak Spring Garden Foundation), Public benefits and scientific challenges: Kew Gardens and their urban contexts
  • Adriaan Geuze (West 8), Ecosystems and cultural contexts: Qur’anic Botanic Garden, Doha, and Houston Botanic Garden
  • Mikyoung Kim (Mikyoung Kim Design), Designing to address educational and public goals: The Learning Campus, Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Hans-Walter Lack (Botanical Garden of Berlin), Botanical scholarship and botanical representation: Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden
  • Finola O’Kane (Universty College Dublin), National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin, Dublin, and their changing urban significance
  • Emma Spary (University of Cambridge), French colonial botanical gardens around 1700
  • Gerda van Uffelen (Leiden University), Botanical gardens and botanical collections at Leiden University

Programs in urban landscape studies at Dumbarton Oaks are supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through its initiative in “Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities,” intended to foster the joint contributions that the humanities and the design and planning disciplines may make to understanding the processes and effects of burgeoning urbanization.

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The Native Plant Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY, designed by Oehme, van Sweden Landscape Architecture (image © Robert Benson, NYBG)