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German Landscape and the Aesthetics of Administration: Peter Joseph Lenné and His Circle, 1815–1848

Michael Lee, University of Virginia, Fellow 2017–2018, Spring

Although widespread among several territories, the effects of the new “administrative vision” were most keenly felt in Prussia, where the landscape designer Peter Joseph Lenné, with a circle of reformers, developed a program of rural embellishment, urban planning, and aesthetic industrialization in response. Operating both within and against the bureaucracy, they aimed to redress the deficiencies of rationalized land management by engineering a Prussian arcadia rooted in classical aesthetics. I analyzed the various registers within which bureaucratic culture inflected Lenné’s designs and the avenues through which he appropriated administrative tools, including standardized representational techniques, to fashion a new landscape discourse. I spent many hours in the Rare Book Reading Room examining materials specific to Lenné’s work in Potsdam, including the full run of a journal published by the Prussian Horticultural Society, a practical handbook written by a Danish gardener who apprenticed for several months with Lenné in Potsdam, a scarce textbook on drawing and surveying used at the Royal Garden Academy at Sanssouci, and several rare publications containing contemporary images of gardens and parks designed by Lenné. I made significant progress on the book manuscript that will result from this project.