Sheffield University calls for papers on parks for Joseph Paxton conference

Sheffield University's landscape department has issued a call for papers for a conference this year on landscape designer Joseph Paxton.

The ZhongRong proposal to rebuild Paxton's Crystal Palace
The ZhongRong proposal to rebuild Paxton's Crystal Palace

The Paxton150 conference will commemorate Joseph Paxton (1803-65) and his pioneering work and influence on public parks. He designed the first municipal park in Birkenhead, which opened in 1847 and gained widespread public acclaim for his glasshouse-influenced design for The Crystal Palace for The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851.

As well as looking back, the conference also wants to evaluate the public parks legacy in recent times. Despite the "considerable interest in public parks" over the past two decades, and "various efforts to publish material" the department says that no scholarly work or popular books have emerged from this recent period.

The call for papers says: "As lottery funding is slowing down and council cuts are beginning to bite, public parks are beginning to suffer from a lack of management and maintenance. It is even more important to record this legacy of public park restorations, the purpose of the present conference is to provide a mechanism for the publication of a critical history of public parks."

Paxton150, which commemorates 150 years since Paxton died, has been organised in conjunction with the Landscape Institute and supported by the National Trust, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Contributions that display some link with Joseph Paxton or his work and that of his followers such as Edward Milner at home, or Frederick Law Olmsted abroad will be prioritised for the conference.

The university is looking for papers which address:

  • The history of parks, which may be case studies of one park, or specific trends or movements within parks
  • Rituals in parks
  • Assessments of specific uses of parks
  • Social aspects
  • Security issues
  • Plants and planting
  • Design and conservation issues
  • Funding
  • Critical assessments of the work of specific landscape architects
  • The influence of the British public park abroad.

The department intends to publish a book comprising papers received.

Submit an abstract of 300-500 words to Jan Woudstra on by 25 February 2015. The conference will be held on 11-12 September 2015.

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