Event will commemorate Joseph Paxton

Sheffield University calls for papers for public parks conference

Potential authors are now invited to submit papers for the Paxton150 conference that will take place at the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield in September. The conference will commemorate Joseph Paxton (1803-65) and also evaluate the public parks legacy. It is organised in conjunction with the Landscape Institute and supported by the National Trust, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Over the past twenty years there has been considerable interest in public parks in Great Britain encouraged by lottery funding; as a result there was even talk of a renaissance in public parks. Lottery funding has ensured restoration schemes in large numbers of parks, based on historic research and other survey work.  While there have been various efforts to publish material, there is as yet no scholarly work that has emerged from this recent period; there are no popular books. As lottery funding is slowing down and council cuts are starting to bite, public parks are beginning to suffer from a lack of management and maintenance. It is even more important to record this legacy of public park restorations; the purpose of the present conference is to provide a mechanism for the publication of a critical history of public parks.

This call for papers seeks contributions that address aspects of the history of parks; this may be case studies of one park, or specific trends or movements within parks; rituals in parks; assessments of specific uses of parks; social aspects; security issues; plants and planting; design and conservation issues; funding of public parks.

In conjunction with the Landscape Institute, the organisers are particularly looking for critical assessments of the work of specific landscape architects, and the influence of the British public park abroad. The intention is to  publish a large edited book.

For the conference the organisers intend to favour contributions that display some link with Joseph Paxton or his work and that of his followers such as Edward Milner at home, or Frederick Law Olmsted abroad. Please submit an abstract of 300-500 words to Jan Woudstra by 25 February 2015. The conference will be held on 11-12 September 2015, and will be advertised separately.

The conference is dedicated to Joseph Paxton who died 150 years ago. As a trained gardener Paxton became one of the foremost pioneers in the landscape profession, designing parks, gardens, cemeteries and housing developments, while also pioneering techniques that led him to be a recognised engineer and architect, particularly after the building of the Great Exhibition Hall in Hyde Park in 1851. 

The conference also celebrates the renaissance of public parks in Great Britain that was launched in Weston Park, Sheffield twenty years ago, when the Heritage Lottery Fund pledged funding for the restoration of public parks.


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