Københavns Universitet
Uafhængig af ledelsen

PhD thesis defense

Kristen Van Haeren, IGN, defends her thesis at Section for Landscape Architecture and Planning

PhD thesis defense — Kristen Van Haeren on 26 June


Date & Time:


Hosted by:
Section for Landscape Architecture and Planning, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management


Kristen Van Haeren defends her thesis,

The Thickness of The Green: Another way of telling two Danish welfare landscapes.

Part of the Reconfiguring Welfare Landscapes

Video link

Associate Professor Henriette Steiner, IGN
Professor Ellen Marie Braae, IGN
Associate Professor Rikke Munck Petersen, IGN

Assessment Committee:
Associate Professor Jennifer Mack, KTH, Stockholm
Professor Hugh Campell, University College Dublin – Ireland
Associate Professor Torben Dam (chair), IGN

Through the process of creating thick descriptions, this thesis investigates the landscapes of two Danish social housing sites, Bellahøj and Farum Midtpunkt, constructed between 1950 and 1980. By combining photographic modes of inquiry with archival findings within a case study analysis, this research broadens understandings of the often-oversimplified green spaces of the housing estates and offers insights into the richness of the unique spatial qualities and often understudied ideas, ideologies and associations of green that contributed to the welfare landscapes’ imaginary and production.
The aim of this thesis is to forge new understandings of the welfare landscapes as a negotiated, designed and constructed common ground materialised from diverse and changing welfare ideals, and moulded by social, cultural and (landscape) architectural currents. The guiding research questions for this study ask firstly what the embedded ideas, ideals and intentions behind the green open spaces were, and how they materialised, and secondly, how living in ‘nature’ was incorporated as part of the changing good life ideal. The ambition behind these lines of inquiry is to expand the literature and knowledge surrounding welfare landscapes and contribute to another way of telling, and new ways of seeing, the multifarious nature of the green. The research presents an alternative perspective on Danish social housing estates from the standpoint of landscape studies, combining spatial and historical analysis through a combined visual-textual inquiry.
Much of the current research on post-war social housing estates has yet to make significant connections to the landscaped spaces. Moreover, beyond providing greenery and health, there is a lack of knowledge surrounding the ideas and ideals that shaped the social housing landscapes. This thesis addresses these shortcomings by providing new knowledge of the inherent spatial and ideological characteristics of welfare landscapes, emphasising the centrality of the green in the envisioning of the good life within the housing estates. The engagement with archival material allows for diverse intentions and perspectives to give meaning and bring awareness to the embedded spatial qualities of the landscapes and reveals how ideals of well-being, and creating a human centred living environment, shaped the materialisation of nature within the Danish social housing estates. Furthermore, through on-the-ground photographic inquiry this thesis contributes to new perspectives into a nuanced green, enabling the green to become understood as a differentiated, diverse and designed landscape, offering the framework for children and imagined communities to develop. The bringing together of historical narratives and intentions with the actual, physical landscape today allows for the grounding of hard-to-grasp aims and imaginings, and articulates how the landscape materialised as an integrated part of the welfare vision towards establishing the good life for all. Through this contribution this thesis can help to ensure that the green is given importance within future visions – that the landscapes of Danish social housing estates can continue to serve as sites and sources of gathering, communality and well-being, adapted to modern-day life, yet without losing sight of the green as first and foremost a landscape for living.

A digital version of the PhD thesis can be obtained from the PhD secretary Anne Marie Faldt anmf@ign.ku.dk