The University Landscape in the Light of the Enlightenment

Under the term “Enlightenment Universities” we regard mostly the universities founded in the context of the great spiritual, social and political change closely before or after the French Revolution. The university is a composite portrait of everything that was dreamed about, a kind of utopia that corresponds to the will of its creators: encyclopaedic knowledge and artefacts through which the university’s landscape is linked to the Age of Enlightenment’s view of the world in the broadest sense. And as such, provides an especially impressive picture of a new world in both the West and the East, from Europe to North America and Russia, including the territories of the present-day Baltic states.

The objectives and tasks of the topic
The main task is to make the surroundings known and recognized in
Europe as an academic world. Its ideas, forms and visual images will be made
visible. To bring the general idea of the conference – “university landscape” into the
centre of attention not only as a single fact (each of the objects alone) but also as a
sort of summary, a sort of the symbol of the age. Here, besides the descriptive and
iconic sides of the object, main attention will be concentrated on its meanings, in
problems of cultural geography together with the semiosphere. In conclusion, it will
give the new and extremely interesting basis to raise more questions about the
essence and rhetoric of the visual culture in the crucial times of the change of the
European society and culture. This will be possible, because universities took part of
the time of Enlightenment and the birth of the modern world. They also served as
points of cultural encounters and creators of culture itself.

1. The conference will be focused on almost new, innovative subjects, that until now
on the level of general histories of culture have hardly been touched – what is
missing today, besides the lack of study on the subject, is a generalization. As
a matter of fact, the university and its role in the history of architecture has
either not been recognized or not been recognized as a special objective
(excluding only some of the objects in the international and national context –
for example Ecole de Chirurgie in Paris or the Univesity of Helsinki). University
forms the paradigm by itself asking for more attention and more publicity.
Like for example, we understand the architecture of monasteries, castles or
2. The Enlightenment universities are those where we still have the chance to
see and investigate the processes of what happened in one of the most
interesting periods of European history – from Enlightenment to the
awakening of national identities and formation of the “modern world”. The
universities in the Eastern and Northern Europe form a special theme – an
intrigue both in terms of political history and the history of ideas, helping to
define the borders of different regional definitions of mapping the world.
These are also the problems and geographies of metropolis, province and
3. The university is the source and basis for the new ideas in the urban
development of the modern city in 1800-s. It is one of the points of
inspiration for the development of the idea of “the modern town inside and
part of the nature”, - Landscape (Landschaft). It is a new utopia and practical
adviser in the turn of the ideas of the English style garden into much wider
reservoirs of open space, where the free spirit could communicate on a new
social and cultural level.
4. The comparative study of architectural and urban ideas, sources and theories
will broaden the view for the development of a “University landscape”: It will
show its geographies, identities and characters. In the meaning of the
“cultural rooms” with their own iconology, significance and artistic value, each
of the distinguished artwork (university or its part) forms a study case for the
hermeneutical journey. This journey starts from the concrete place and its
“genius loci”. To describe it, the research will have to use different disciplines
with their terms or even find a separate visual language for the topic.
5. The roles of natural sciences and humanities as the tools and catalysts of new
societies and national identities are also the principles and techniques of the
integration of two dichotomical sides of human nature: Analysis and Sensual,
Science and Art. They both take part in building up the new university
ensembles and their aesthetics. The comprehensive history of ideas parallel to
the practical aspects of the material and empirical data will guarantee new
horizons for understanding better the role of the philosophers of the time in
their concrete surroundings and mental atmosphere. Together with the
modern theories in architecture (architecture parlante, visionary architecture,
picturesque and romantic movement) here lies the groundwork for more
thorough study of the development of ideas of the interpretation of space and
its role in the birth of the modern principles in town planning.