Professor of Rural Sociology Han Wiskerke (1967) was a professor at the Academy of Architecture for the 'Foodscapes' research group. This research group was embedded in the education of the Landscape Architecture program. Wiskerke gave lectures, organized excursions and research programs and he programmed a series of lectures in which the theme of food landscapes was central. The research publication Flourishing Foodscapes was published in 2018.

In the lectureship programme Wiskerke emphasised three themes: the changing of the urban and rural environment and the way in which those changes influence one another; the social and economic relations within the urban region; and the possibility to develop more sustainable food landscapes (‘foodscapes’) at the regional level through (re)design.

Wiskerke connected those themes to spatial design research by masters students of landscape architecture. 'They are eminently positioned to present spatial proposals for future cultural landscapes and to make important aesthetic contributions to the transformation of areas.' Under his supervision, students worked on concrete research projects linked to the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University.

In the summer of 2011 Han Wiskerke was one of the guest speakers at the international symposium ‘New Chances for Old Landscapes’, organised by the Academy of Architecture in collaboration with the European Master in Landscape Architecture (EMiLA). He explained how after the Second World War the rural landscape changed owing to the influence of a national and later European agricultural policy, which stimulated scale increase, specialisation and mechanisation. As a result, the area covered by monofunctional agricultural production landscapes in Europe grew enormously (with all the negative and sometimes damaging effects). Agricultural production was increasingly geared to the world market.

Owing to the socio-spatial separation of food production (countryside) and food consumption (city), city and countryside have become increasingly separated from each other. People moved in great numbers into monofunctional residential areas and buy most of their food in supermarkets. No longer do they know where their food comes from. The surrounding countryside offered fewer and fewer possibilities because of the domination of agricultural production, and access to that countryside decreased because of the desire to minimise human influence in sensitive nature reserves.

Wiskerke has studied how various European countries deal with the rapid transformation of cultural landscapes. The agricultural sector everywhere has come under intense pressure over the past 15 years. On the one hand this continues the post-war development process and, accordingly, increases the scale of monofunctional production landscapes. On the other hand, a growing number of agricultural businesses, particularly in urbanised areas, have broadened their scope and now offer products and services that respond to the growing demand from cities for biological and local produce. With agritourism, nature and environmental education, and with the rapid growth of social-care farms and agricultural childcare, the new multifunctional agricultural entrepreneur is succeeding in re-establishing connections between city and countryside.

In many countries there is also increasing recognition of regions, such as Waterland and Groene Woud in the Netherlands, and for products and services that are specific to regions, such as the Tuscan wine routes in Italy. This swing towards multipurpose land use often leads to other, and sometimes better, landscape qualities and has various positive socio-economic effects, such as new connections between city and countryside (and between city-dweller and farmer), a resilient regional economy and a lessening of alienation from our food.

For his first Capita Selecta lecture series in the autumn of 2013, Wiskerke is inviting experts who will speak about the importance and role of food in regional planning and design. The second series will focus on the redesign of the food landscape and on strategies to stimulate sustainable food supplies. The research findings of the next four years will be gathered into a lavishly illustrated book, says Wiskerke. Finally, it is planned to exhibit the designs and scenarios resulting from the Foodscapes lectureship at the Academy.

Professor Han Wiskerke (1967) has been professor of Rural Sociology at Wageningen University since 2004 and is also head of the university’s Rural Sociology Group. He is involved in various international research projects funded by the European Commission. In 2012 he and British architect André Viljoen published the book ‘Sustainable Food Planning: Evolving Theory and Practice’ (Wageningen Academic Publishers).

Research publication Flourishing Foodscapes - Design for City-Region Food Systems