Unveiling the Erik A. de Jong Library (photograph by Jordy Brada)

On Thursday June 8, 2023, the Erik A. de Jong Library was festively opened. Out of gratitude for the generous donation of the larger part of his personal library, the renewed and expanded the library of the section of landscape architecture was named after garden and landscape historian Erik de Jong.

Landscape architecture and books have much in common: the act of designing is part of an interaction with landscape that involves both ‘reading’ the site and ‘re-writing’ it. This narrative approach and its underlying literary framework is a source of inspiration.

So, when in 2008 a fire destroyed our faculty building, the loss of our books was felt deeply. And amongst the tokens of sympathy that we received from many corners of the world were some offers from publishers to donate their books to us, to replace the lost ones. One of the aspects of moving to the current building was that we also moved from private offices to shared workspaces, and we decided to make up for this loss of many private mini libraries by creating a communal landscape architecture section library.

The collection slowly expanded. We buy new books and occasionally receive small book donations.

The library is organised in several sections, revolving around the core of landscape architecture, and dynamically evolving over time, for example because of new research interests.

A) garden and landscape architecture, B) landscape architecture history, C) monographs, D) materialisation and technique, E) policy, landscape planning and preservation, F) nature, ecology and urban ecology, G) Dutch landscape: analysis and visions, H) landscape general, I) Soil science and geology, J) atlases, K) architecture, L) (travel) guides, M) competitions, exhibitions and student work, N) urban landscape, O) maps, P) product catalogues, Q) drawing techniques, R) landscape theory and methods, S) (land) art, T) magazines & journals, U) yearbooks, V) Graduation reports, W) urban forestry, X) PhD theses, speeches, etc.

Erik de Jong’s donation transformed the library substantially. Over the years the section has collaborated with Erik in different forms: supervising PhD theses, lecturing for our students and participating in research projects. About a year Erik ago contacted us, asking whether we would be interested in receiving a large part of his personal library. As a historian, a researcher and professor in garden history, garden culture, landscape studies, etc. you can imagine the richness of his personal library.

In December last year we rented a minivan, collected a huge pile of banana boxes and drove to Overveen. After spending a joyful day packing the books, and a celebratory drink of sake to symbolize the moment of handing over, we moved the books to Delft. In the basement of the faculty building is a wonderful hidden landscape of labyrinthine corridors and storage room, and one of them is now piled with boxes and boxes of books. And slowly, slowly, one by one, the books in the basement are selected, dividing Erik’s collection between the landscape architecture library and the main faculty library. The selected books are then fed into the different categories in our library catalogue. The category of landscape architecture history has now exploded, and urban parks has been added as a new one, a category that we did not have, but I now realised that we definitely need as well. And finally, they are placed in the physical space of our library. Juggling the vicissitudes of facility management and steel delivery, the physical library is now doubled in size, with as a result a beautiful meeting space within our communal room. The open spaces that you see today, will be filled by the books from the basement. Here we can touch the books, read them and borrow them. Books should be read. So, we don’t keep them to ourselves. Everybody in this faculty can borrow them, as long as they leave clear contact details. We have a borrowing system and the ever-expanding catalogue can be found here: https://landscapearchitecturetudelft.nl/library/

The library (Photograph by Jordy Brada)

And what about the books that inspire landscape architects? What are the meaningful and inspirational books and texts that fundamentally address the subject of landscape and landscape architecture? At the opening day Erik delivered a speech that gave insight into how he collected his books not primarily out of historical interest, but out of the urge to interpret and provide a foundation for landscape architecture as it is today.

Landscape Literacy, speech by Erik de Jong (Photograph by Jordy Brada)

Previous chairholders at landscape architecture TU Delft Eric Luiten and Dirk Sijmons responded by showing some of the books that had inspired them during their careers. For example ‘Is landscape…?’ (ed. by Doherty, G. & Waldheim, C.) that you can find in the library under category ‘R) landscape theory and methods’. Whereas the poem that current professor Adriaan Geuze delivered as his response have a different perspective on the close relationship between landscape and literacy, the Dutch landscape as inspirational source for poetry, poetry as inspirational source for landscape architecture. This moment also seems to have set in motion a new tradition: both Eric and Dirk already promised their private libraries to the section, in due time.

And now, when taking a book from the shelf, you will soon discover the extend of this wonderful donation compared to what we had, because they are all highlighted with a gold sticker: Gift Erik A. de Jong, garden and landscape historian. December 2022.

Posted by:Saskia de Wit