Karen Fitzsimon

Supervisors: Harry Charrington, Kate Jordan

The Impact of Preben Jakobsen’s Design and Planting Theories: An investigation of his landscape architectural practice 1961-1998

Preben Jakobsen (1934-2012) was a Danish landscape architect and educator who, from 1961, spent his professional life working in the UK. With a deep belief that landscape design is an art form, he was renowned for his ability to employ an exceptional knowledge of plants to create dynamic sculptural designs. Trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Copenhagen, Jakobsen was employed initially by Eric Lyons’s (1912-1980) Mill House Studio, where for eight years he contributed to the special quality of the acclaimed Span housing schemes in the south-east of England. Thereafter he established Jakobsen Landscape Architects.

While the practice worked across a range of landscape typologies it established a specialism in the expanding genre of commercial office developments. In 1993, in recognition of his contribution to the profession, Jakobsen was awarded the Landscape Institute’s rarely issued Gold Medal. However, no posthumous studies of Jakobsen exist, and his legacy in relation to landscape design and theory has been neglected. Furthermore, as recognised by Historic England (2020),the Twentieth Century Society and others, landscape creations of this period, including those by Jakobsen, are particularly at risk from neglect or redevelopment.

Through the lens of Jakobsen, this project extends scholarship about late twentieth-century British landscape architectural practice, and its contribution to built- heritage. With access to Jakobsen’s archive and family papers in the UK and Denmark, and by employing field-studies and oral histories, this research investigates how Jakobsen’s Scandinavian heritage and education provided him with a design approach that attracted key proponents of modernist English architecture. It considers how his practice was an expression of his design and planting theories, and postulates that within the history of post- war British landscape design, Jakobsen was a principal and influential modernist who had an impact on contemporary landscape practice.