SGL-24306 Fundamentals of Landscapes

Code last year: (SGL-11806)


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Excursion (one day)28
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. CR Stoof
Lecturer(s)dr. J Limpens
dr. ir. CR Stoof
dr. T Reimann
R Dijksma
dr. J van Ruijven
Examiner(s)dr. ir. CR Stoof

Language of instruction:



For thoughtful, sustainable and suitable landscape planning and design, it is essential to have a good understanding of the landscape itself. How is the landscape formed and what type of soils can you expect? How and where does the water flow, and what does the combination of soils and hydrology mean for land use and natural habitats? All these factors are related, and knowledge of how these relationships work can help you to design smart landscapes. 

The focal point of this course is to understand the relationships between geology, hydrology, soil, vegetation, and land-use. The main focus is on lowlands and the low-lying coasts and river delta of the Netherlands as a typical example of a densely populated urbanized area. We will pay attention to both metropolitan and agricultural regions as well as areas reserved for nature conservation and nature development. We will use an integrated approach taught by a multidisciplinary team.
The course starts with lectures on geology and soil geography, hydrology, and ecology of plant communities and ecosystems, followed by discussion of four key landscape types. The theory will be supported by in-depth tutorials and illustrated during three field excursions, and the course is concluded with a real-world design exercise. All teaching material will be placed in the context of analysis, planning and design of landscapes in the Netherlands and worldwide. Note that this course does *not* cover landscape design and architecture itself, it rather provides the basic fundamental understanding you need in order to develop and design landscapes.

This course is a pre-master course for prospective students of the MSc program Landscape Architecture and Planning.  It can be selected as an optional course by students from other programs, provided that there is no overlap with courses that you have taken previously. These courses include SGL-11303 Introduction to Soil Science, SGL-12803 Introduction to Soil Geography, HWM-10303 Water 1, SGL-23312 Landscape Geography, SGL-22306 Geology, Soils and Landscapes of the Northwest European lowlands. Motivated students that have taken only PEN 21803 (Ecology of Communities, Ecosystems & Landscapes – theory) and PEN-22303 (idem – excursions) may be eligible to participate if they contact the course coordinator and get permission to do an alternative exercise. When in doubt, please contact the course coordinator. 

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain the genesis, history and character of typical lowland landscapes (geology, geomorphology, soils and hydrology);
- understand the fundamentals of water flow (hydrology) in general and more specific in the Dutch landscape;
- explain how species and landscape interact;
- explain the importance of spatial landscape characteristics for biodiverse ecosystems;
- apply multi-disciplinary knowledge from environmental sciences in the context of analyzing and planning landscapes;
- place the Dutch landscape in an international context.


Lectures, tutorials, excursions, group project

<<< for the three 1-day fieldtrips we strongly advise all students to be dressed appropriately for the weather, including cold-, wind- and water-proof clothing and footwear. If you do not have this, please make sure to borrow or purchase these materials to stay warm and dry. We will be traveling by bus but some of the excursion sites are in open landscapes where it can be pretty cold at this time of year>>>


Grades will be based on a final exam and the final project. The exam is a closed-book exam: the only materials you are allowed to have with you are: a pen, English dictionary, a calculator, water and a snack.

Exam (60% of grade). Purpose: To explain the relationships between geology, soils, hydrology, vegetation composition and land use in four major landscape types, and articulate their relevance for landscape planning and design.

Final project (40% of grade). Purpose: To apply the material learned in the first part of the course to assess and solve a real-world landscape-related design issue.


Required texts: No textbook; lecture slides and essential readings are posted to Brightspace. 

Background readings: Optional background readings incl. a reader are posted on Brightspace.