Vera Vicenzotti


Reserach interests

My research has focused on landscape architecture theory, methodology, and history.

I'm interested in different kinds of landscapes - 'hybrid', peri-urban landscapes, post-industrial landscapes, and wild landscapes, both urban and non-urban - and in the discourses about these landscapes. I'm also beoming more and more interested in the methodology and epistemology of landscape design. And, always: landscape theory.

Please see below a short description of my current and previous research projects.

Current research project

SPRAWLESCAPES. A comparative study of landscape discourses of urban sprawl in Sweden and Germany

The project analyses planning discourses on urban SPRAWL, a phenomenon that is considered to be an escalating problem in Europe. By focusing on the role of 'landSCAPE' in these discourses, the study aims to reveal opportunities to ESCAPE from the currently dominant dichotomised and reductionist approaches to this highly complex and culture-dependent phenomenon.

In Germany and Sweden, planning discourses have developed that seem to provide a nuanced understanding of 'urban sprawl' by introducing the landscape-related concepts 'stadslandskap' and 'Zwischenstadt'. The project proposes to conduct a comparative analysis of these discourses by exploring how the landscape-related concepts are built up and disseminated. To gain a deeper understanding of the debates, the project will analyse the complex and competing imaginaries involved, for these imaginaries are assumed to constitute the interpretative frame of the planning discourses. To achieve these objectives, the project will develop a specific discourse analytical approach that allows focusing on the underlying cultural patterns. Such an approach will also facilitate mutual learning as an alternative to (quantitative) European comparisons; by discussing such strategies for learning, the study will contribute to the implementation of the European Landscape Convention.


This research project is receiving funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under REA grant agreement n°328787.


For more information, please visit the project's website.

Previous research projects

The Landscape of Landscape Urbanism

I have analyzed the still quite recent discourse of Landscape Urbanism. I am particularly interested in understanding how the concept of 'landscape' is used and which theoretical and practical consequences this conceptualization has.


This research has been funded by a Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Analysis of the contemporary discourse on peri-urban landscapes

In my doctoral dissertation, I analysed the German language discourse on the so-called Zwischenstadt (Thomas Sieverts), i. e. peri-urban landscapes, led by design professionals. My research concentrated on the influential metaphorical reading of urban sprawl as 'wilderness', apart from analyzing two other interpretations of the Zwischenstadt, namely 'cultural landscape' and 'city.' I analysed the cultural patterns, social and political ideas and ideologies behind the various readings and design strategies. To this end, I systematically mapped the conceptions of wild nature that have been developed in German culture and described their ideological backgrounds. I reconstructed the different interpretations of the peri-urban landscapes and various design solutions as expressions of culturally formed conceptions of the nature-culture relationship. My approach is capable of explaining seeming contradictions in differing design attitudes and in the ways the wilderness metaphor is used. Furthermore, it reveals the implicit premises and (political) consequences of the different design strategies, which is crucial for transparent and democratic planning processes.


This research has been funded by a scholarship from the German National Academic Foundation as well as a scholarship within the programme "Equality for Women in Science and Teaching".


The doctoral dissertation has been published in 2011: Der »Zwischenstadt«-Diskurs. Eine Analyse zwischen Wildnis, Kulturlandschaft und Stadt. transcript, Bielefeld.

The idea of wilderness

Often wilderness is defined as nature untouched by humans. I have authored and co-authored papers which demonstrated that this scientific attempt at a definition (regardless of whether or not it succeeds) ignores that in nature conservation, environmental planning, landscape architecture, and urban design wilderness is primarily a symbol, a place of myths and social projections.

Methodology and history of landscape architecture, environmental planning, nature conservation and landscape ecology


I have addressed the problem that landscape architecture, environmental planning, and nature conservation are not just applied ecology, as they often tend to conceptualize themselves. For landscape is not a purely ecological object (even if one can explore ecological systems within landscapes), but also a mental object with symbolic meanings. This was also the starting point for my colleagues Thomas Kirchhoff, Ludwig Trepl, and myself to explore the philosophy of science of complex (poly-paradigmatic) disciplines using the example of landscape ecology.

The idea of belonging [Heimat]

When it comes to exploring the history of the discipline of landscape architecture in Germany, coming to terms with the national socialist land stewardship is crucial. In this regard, I have dealt with the concept of Heimat (homeland, belonging) that is currently debated very controversially in landscape architecture, urban design, and nature conservation.

Recent publications

Kirchhoff, Thomas & Vicenzotti, Vera. 2017. Von der Sehnsucht nach Wildnis. In: Thomas Kirchhoff, Nicole C. Karafyllis et al. (Hgs.): Naturphilosophie. Ein Lehr- und Studienbuch, Publisher: UTB / Mohr Siebeck: 313-322.

Vicenzotti, Vera. 2017. Thomas Sieverts: Zwischenstadt. In: Frank Eckardt (Ed.): Schlüsselwerke der Stadtforschung. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften: 127-143.

[Publisher's information]

Vicenzotti, Vera; Jorgensen, Anna; Qviström, Mattias & Swaffield, Simon. 2016. Forty Years of Landscape Research. Landscape Research 41(4): 388–407. [Abstract and link to full text (open access]

Etteger, Rudi van; Thompson, Ian H. & Vicenzotti, Vera. 2016. Aesthetic creation theory and landscape architecture. Journal of Landscape Architecture 11(1): 80-91.[Abstract and link to full text (open access)]

Qviström, Mattias; Bengtsson, Jens & Vicenzotti, Vera. 2016. Part-time amenity migrants: Revealing the importance of second homes for senior residents in a transit-oriented development. Land Use Policy 56: 169–178. [Abstract and link to full text (open access)]

(c) Vera Vicenzotti

last update: 2017-03-29