Dr. Werner Nohl · landscape architect · honorary professor (Technical University of Munich)
opinions and appraisals
- Wind energy converters are no windmillsMore and more people recognize that wind energy converters, which today are over 200 m high, deform landscape sceneries, thus spoiling the experience of landscape beauty, once and for all. This way of seeing is even shared in wide parts of economy circles. In a critique of the book “Sacrificed landscapes” (Geopferte Landschaften), edited by Georg Etscheit in the prestigious German economy magazine ‘Wirtschaftswoche’ of December 9, 2016 the reviewer, Christoffer Schwarz, points out, that the aesthetic appreciation of landscape follows quite recognizable rules. As he writes: “In one of the most illuminating contributions of this book with the title ‘wind energy converters are no wind mills’ the landscape architect Werner Nohl from Munich shows that ‘as a rule’ we find those landscapes attractive whose constructional and technical elements reflect the ‘scale of landscape context’. It is exactly this scale which is destroyed by modern wind energy converters because of their intrusive and threatening hight; their with respect to landscape atypical rotor move; their boring and area-wide self-similarity; their conspicuous visual pollution of horizon etc. How long do we have to put up with persons in authority who neglect such knowledge, with impunity?
- Environmental psychological research on the aesthetics of urban open spacesUrban open space planning can ony be achieved with the people, not against them. That is true in the aesthetic realm, too. Therefore empirical research is necessary, for it may help lay persons to better understand their own aesthetic standards and to develop them forth, should the need arise. On the other hand such insights may enable landscape architects to broaden their horizon in terms of people’s aesthetic needs and to check their design work in the light of this knowledge. In this respect W. Tessin recently referred to some research work, which Nohl carried through in the seventies of the last century (e.g. Nohl: "Ansätze zu einer umweltpsychologischen Freiraumforschung", Beiheft 11 zu Landschaft+Stadt, Ulmer Verlag, Stuttgart, 1974). Thus Tessin writes in his book “The Aesthetics of the Agreeable” (2008, p. 6/7): “As to the pychologically oriented research on aesthetic reception especially the work of Nohl was ground-breaking and pioneering in German-speaking landscape architecture”, and he adds a little bit later: “With these investigations Nohl remained fairly alone and without successors…” – Very true, perhaps Tessin’s intelligent and worth reading book will help that this research path will be taken up again, in the next future.
- Landscape aesthetic assessmentIn the weekly magazin ‚Die Zeit’ journalist Georg Etscheit reports on a computer-based landscape aesthetic evaluation device, whose basic data stem from environmental psychological investigations (Roser, F., 2011: Entwicklung einer Methode zur großflächigen rechnergestützten Analyse des landschaftsästhetischen Potenzials. Berlin). He wonders, why such an elaborated procedure can only reflect the aesthetic reality of landscape in somewhat simplified terms, as Roser frankly admits. Etscheit speculates that, as an addition, it needs a certain eloquence to convince courts and government agencies. As proof he quotes from one of my landscape aesthetic surveys: ‘The dramatic effects of the celestial vault, which reaches from the overly powerful cloudscape during the day to the ample and sparkling starry firmament at night, cannot be ignored in this landscape.’ (Nohl, W., 2004: Landschaftsästhetische und rekreative Auswirkungen des geplanten Windparks im Schmarloh. Kirchheim) The citation is indeed instructive, not in the sense of eloquence but rather of those contents, which go short in landscape aesthetic evaluation devices. Thus clouds and stars in this quote refer, for example, to the many fugitive, erratic, accidental, in brief: ephemeral elements and phenomena in the landscape. Although they are of high significance for aesthetic experiences, they normally stay disregarded in evaluation procedures because their transitory nature refuses use in numerical devices.
- „Cemetery culture and cemetery planning in early 21st. century”The study „Friedhofskultur und Friedhofsplanung im frühen 21. Jahrhundert – Bestatten, Trauern und Gedenken auf dem Friedhof“ (Königswinter 2001), which was worked out by Gerhard Richter and Werner Nohl for „Aeternitas – consumer initiative for burial culture“, has been discussed in detail by the writer Barbara Leisner. She ends her stimulating contribution, which can be read as complementary report to our study, with the statement: “…as other socio-cultural institutions, too, cemeteries have to listen at the pulse of the time and to react adequately on the factual desires and requirements of the cemetery users, the bereaved, the survivors, memories collecting tourists, and of all thoses, who are looking for a contemplative place in the middle of life…It is the credit of this study to have started such a discussion and to have given it a solid foundation.” (Leisner, B.: „Haben Friedhöfe Zukunft? – Anmerkungen zur Nohl-Richter-Studie“ in: Friedhof und Denkmal, Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 18-24, 2002)
- “Is there such a thing as the aesthetics of sustainable cities and what could it be like?”Nohl`s essay “Is there such a thing as the aesthetics of sustainable cities and what could it be like?” is a contribution to the book „Urban Ecology“ (Breuste, J; Feldmann, H.; Uhlmann, O., eds., Berlin/Heidelberg/New York 1998, pp. 267-272) and deals with the idea that in the contemporary city a possibly more democratic and sustainable life praxis may be met in the aesthetic experience of derelict urban sites and other, less functional urban areas like temporary allotment gardens. In terms of this idea it says in the “Euroabstracts” of the European Commission (Vol. 37, June 1999): Nohl „shows how the provision of allotments and the development of derelict sites can give townfolks the chance to participate actively in building their environment. The study demonstrates how allotment projects can encourage community spirit, environmental awareness and a better quality of life.”
- „Landscape planning – aesthetic and recreational aspects“Wilhelm Stölb, author of the recently published book “Waldästhetik”, in which he revives and develops forth the old aesthetic tradition of the forest sciences, in a short note pointed to a delicate subject, the other day: how do foresters and recreationists think about areas of natural disaster in forests? Referring to Nohl`s book „Landschaftsplanung – Ästhetische und rekreative Aspekte“ (p. 39/40, Berlin/Hannover 2001) Stölb explains: „Landscapes opened up spontaneously by forces of nature are able to deeply move the sentimental human soul. The Munich landscape architect Werner Nohl speaks in view of disaster areas of a traditional and, yet, new mode of aesthetic experience, >which may be best marked with the (old) term of sublimity.< They make us think >that not everything in this world is subjected to the clutches of man, that there are indeed forces, which are able to escape from the identity stealing human omnipotence<… In that way we are surrounded by these areas: quietness, vastness, sky, clouds, circling buzzards…”
- The Concept of Sociotope in Urban Open Space PlanningIn a study for the European Commission “Urban lifestyle and urban biodiversity“ (Petersen, L.K. et al., Alter-Net, WPR1 – 2007 – 03) the sociotope concept is applied to record the relationships between life style of city dwellers and the protection of biodiversity in urban areas. Concerning the origins of this concept the authors write (p. 32): “It is not clear who first defined the word sociotope but.... German landscape architect Werner Nohl (e.g. 1988) has used it to describe social types of urban settings.” In fact, the sociotope concept was introduced by Nohl into urban open space planning already in 1983, in order to take into consideration the horizontal disparities as part of the living conditions in urban areas (e.g. the varying provision of city quarters with usable open spaces depending on the social status of the dwellers) by building socio-spatial urban units. (Compare: Werner Nohl: “Städtischer Freiraum und Reproduktion der Arbeitskraft“, Series: IMU-Studien, Vol. 2, München 1983, pp. 144-146). In this question Nohl refers on the work of Bargel, T.; Kuthe, M.; Mundt, J.W.: „Die Indizierung von Soziotopen als Grundlage der Messung sozialer Disparitäten“, in: Hoffmann-Nowotny, H.-J. (ed.): Messung sozialer Disparitäten, pp. 43-92. Frankfurt/M. 1978.
- „Aesthetic appreciation of wind power plants in the landscape”“Wind turbines in the alps – the crosses on the summits of the 21st century?” is the (not at all) provocative headline of an article by Roland Kals (in the Austrian journal: “Land und Raum”, Vol. 3, pp. 1 –6, 2003). Fearing possible wind power plants in the Austrian Alps Kals refers in his analyses and planning proposals to my environmental psychological studies of the aesthetic appreciation of wind power plants (Nohl, W.: „Ästhetisches Erlebnis von Windkraftanlagen“, in: Naturschutz und Landschaftsplanung Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 365 – 372, 2001) and notices: “As to the above mentioned landcape aesthetic perceptions there is an empirical investigation, which was carried through at the Technical University in Munich. Using aesthetically less stimulating lowlands as site for wind turbines it could unambiguously be demonstrated that landscapes with wind turbines are aesthetically experienced as negative.” (p.3) Consequently Kals reminds us about the dictates of reason that the perception of the alpine mountains should be considered as a “residuum of unavailability” (p. 3).
- „Nature aesthetics in cities – a conceptual outline“In her dissertation „Die Stadt – umweltbelastetes System oder wertvoller Lebensraum? – Zur Geschichte, Theorie und Praxis stadtökologischer Forschung“ (Dissertation, Fakultät für Architektur, Umwelt, Gesellschaft der TU Berlin, 2003) Monika Wächter refers to Nohl`s essay „Nature aesthetics in cities – a conceptual outline“ (in: Landschaft + Stadt, Vol. 22, No. 2, 57-67, 1992). Looking out for a worth living city she writes on pages 139/140: “Nohl emphasizes that he adheres with his nature aesthetics to the promise of happiness. The cooperative partnership between man and nature, as it is possible on derelict urban areas, for example, symbolically points people to a better future, in which the sorrows of progress and the suffering from the city would have been overcome…”
- „Landscape architecture and emancipation“ INohl’s book „Landscape architecture and emancipation“ (“Freiraumarchitektur und Emanzipation”), published in 1980, has been controversially discussed since then. Thus detailed conttributions and comments on it have been produced in various university seminars (e.g. Eisel, U. and Schultz, S., eds., History and structure in landscape planning, Fachbereich Landschaftsentwicklung, TU Berlin 2001: Chair of landscape ecology, ed., Landscape and scenic evaluation – work report, Chair of landscape ecology, Wissenschaftszentrum der TU München, Freising 2002). But also in general publications “Landscape Architecture and emancipation” has been discussed in great detail. For example, G. Pütz, who reproduces Kant’s aesthetic theory (“Schönheit – Sinn ohne Verstand”, Series: Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte der Natur, Vol. 3, Freising 2002) discusses Nohl’s approach under different aspects. Though she doesn’t like the emancipatory thinking, at all, she has at least some sympathy for Nohl’s claim of empirically tackling the needs of open space users as well as the valences of different open space types.
- „Landscape architecture and emancipation“ IIA broad critique of Nohl`s landscape aesthetical approach in „Landscape architecture and emancipation“ (and various other publications) may be found in the book of S. Körner: “Theorie und Methodik der Landschaftsplanung, Landschaftsarchitektur und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Freiraumplanung vom Nationalsozialismus bis zur Gegenwart“, (Series: Landschaftsentwicklung und Umweltforschung, Vol. 118, Fakultät für Architektur, Umwelt, Gesellschaft, TU Berlin, Berlin 2001). Sticking to a late bourgois-idealistic thinking Körner’s ability to be critical is limited to not binding battles of words. That he dedicates more than 60 narrowly filled pages to an obviously repulsed and loathed text, filling his arguments with daring interpretations and mock battles, may explain, how deeply he is bogged down to his subjetivistic mentality and how much he feels sore about Nohl`s view of science. In later publications he argues more conciliatory. In the book „Landschaft in einer Kultur der Nachhaltigkeit“ (Eisel, U. and Körner, S., eds., Series: Arbeitsberichte des Fachbereichs Architektur, Stadtplanung, Landschaftsplanung, Vol. 1, No. 163, Universität Kassel, Kassel 2006), for instance, he concedes: “Therefore Nohl always insists in the cultural richness and the individuality of the human existence, too.” – That’s nothing to sniff at!
- „Landscape architecture and emancipation“ IIIIn 2008 Jochen Hanisch published his worth reading and informatively annotated bibliography: “Über die Zukunft der Planung – Wer nicht nach neuen Wegen sucht, wird sie auch nicht finden“ (Series of the association of city, regional, and state planning, Vol. 53, Berlin 2008). Hanisch comments on some forty texts from the last 50 years, which are, up to now, of special significance for city, regional and state planning. Nohl`s book „Landscape architecture and emancipation“ is part of this list and its choice is well-founded on pages 50-53. Hanisch writes, for example: You cold describe his concept “as the productive force of phantasy, which Nohl tries to wake and to stimulate. For without phantasy nobody would come up with the idea to think about an other, self-determinated, more fulfilled life.” (p. 51) And he concludes: „Nohl’s concept of landscape aesthetics still possesses central significance, if you consider it within the problem area of the ecological crisis. The awareness of nature’s significance for the existence (survival) of man is a presupposition for the concept that the human-nature-relationship can sustainably be organised.”
- „Nature conservation without landscape aesthetics – only half of the job““Besides artists possibly nature conservationists will more strongly interfere, in future, in the processes of planning the suburban realm – in a variant of nature protection, which can be identified with Nohl as underpinned by sociocultural sciences…, which includes sociological, socio-theoretical and socio-scientific information, as it is already required for nature conservation activities in the city”, writes Corinna Clemens on page 242 of her dissertation „Planen mit der Landschaft im suburbanen Raum – Landschaft als Bedingung, Objekt und Chance räumlicher Planung“ (Books on demand GmbH, 2002). This quotation refers to Nohl`s essay „Halbierter Naturschutz“ (in: Natur und Landschaft, Vol. 71, No. 5, pp. 214 – 219, 1996), which - as another essay of Nohl „Der suburbane Raum und seine Planungsakteure – Oder: warum folgen Kommunalpolitiker mehr den Zusagen von Investoren als den Aussagen von Planern?“ (in: Stadt und Grün, Vol. 45, No. 11, pp. 768 – 776, 1996), too, is cited very often in Clemens´ dissertation.