University of Nottingham

From the technological sublime to the urban pastoral: rethinking urban and industrial landscapes (workshops)

Project outline

The 'sublime' and the 'pastoral' are two of the most enduring ideas in the history and interpretation of landscape. These workshops set out to explore how these concepts relate to contemporary urban and industrial landscapes.

Technological sublime Technological sublime


Three workshops entitled 'In search of the urban pastoral', 'The cinematic sublime' and 'Anxious landscapes: spaces of abandonment and decay' were held. Following greater than anticipated interest in these workshops, some additional events were arranged in collaboration with the Royal Academy (RA) and the project was extended from 12 to 15 months. Collaboration with the RA enabled the workshops to reach a much wider audience owing to the efforts of their promotional team.

Participants were drawn from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds and career stages, enabling the workshops to make a number of important contributions to contemporary debates about landscape, through the provision of an interdisciplinary context within which to rework key concepts in a contemporary context. The historical and geographical specificity of different landscape forms were explored, and the workshops facilitated debate between academics and professional practitioners within architecture and the visual arts.

A series of papers have already been published and both edited and single authored books are in development.

Ongoing influence

Follow-up events were organised with the Royal Academy in 2009 under the themes of 'Landscape and Memory' and 'Envisioning the City', and a UCL based workshop on 'Abandoned Spaces' was held in 2009 in collaboration with the Bartlett School of Architecture (an original project partner). Collaboration with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) is ongoing through a Collaborative Doctoral Award. A lasting dialogue between different institutions in London involved in the workshops is exemplified by a seminar series titled 'the urban salon'.

Andrew Harris received a further AHRC network grant on 'Creative Cities' that connects to the original network themes.

Matthew Gandy continues to explore conceptual and phenomenological dimensions to urban landscapes, most recently through a collaboration with the Swedish sound artist BJ Nilsen, with the support of the Leverhulme Trust, which has led to a book and CD entitled The Acoustic City (Berlin: jovis, 2014). His writing on urban landscapes has also been developed further with the support of a fellowship from the Gerda Henkel Foundation, and from 2013-2015 he will be a senior research fellow at the Universität der Künste / University of the Arts, in Berlin.

The Landscape and Environment network was pivotal in providing a case for support for the establishment of the UCL Urban Laboratory (one of the three thematic priorities for research in the laboratory is 'landscape', along with 'citizenship' and 'infrastructure') and a new MSc programme.


  1. In search of the urban pastoral
  2. The cinematic sublime
  3. Anxious landscapes: spaces of abandonment and decay

Award details

Duration: October 2006 - March 2008, duration 15 months  

Principal Investigator:
Professor Matthew Gandy

Higher Education Institution:
Department of Geography, University College London

Selected publications

Gandy, M. (2009). Starting points: Gilles Clement and the recuperation of space. New Geographies. 1: 110-19.

Gandy, M. (2008). Above the treetops: nature, history and the limits to philosophical naturalism. Geoforum. 39 (2): 561-69.

'The complicity of the mundane'. In Tucker, J. (2008). Tense. Exhibition catalogue.

Project partner

Royal Academy logo

Related links


Landscape and Environment Programme

School of Geography
University Park
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 84 66071