Spatial Strategies of Self-Representation in the Habsburg Low Countries. The Nobility and the Invention of the Well-Ordered Landscape.
The project aims to study the environment of the non-urban noble residence in the Southern Low Countries, from the advent of Habsburg rule (1482) to the end of the Spanish Period (1712), using insights and methods from landscape architecture, history of landscape/landscape painting, and cartography (Historic GIS, virtual landscape visualisation and modeling). On the one hand, this is a built environment with functional buildings supporting the noble lifestyle and with satellite residences such as dowager houses, hunting pavilions and leisure houses. On the other, this is a designed landscape with, from the mid-sixteenth century onwards, rigorously geometrical features such as treelined avenues, which were, we would argue, perceived as expressing the owner’s status on a par with architecture. The aim of this study is twofold. Firstly, on the scale of the built environment, the defining components of the noble residence should be identified, including gardens, buildings and landscape. Secondly, on a bigger scale, the spatial strategies in between these different components (scale of the single estate) and ensembles will be identified (system of estates). The well-ordered landscape thus constitutes an essential part of the early modern nobility’s strategies of self-representation, their “vivre noblement”, the impact of which is still visible today. This study will focus on four main primary case studies: Heverlee, Chimay and Solre-le-Château. Using the insights and methods mentioned previously, these ordered landscapes will be reconstructed.