The early period of Landscape Architecture education in Norway seen from student works (1900-1960)

The collection of student works in the Archive of Norwegian Landscape Architecture starts around 1900 and continues until 1980s. This post presents only a small part of the first 60 years. It reflects the development of garden art and landscape architecture in Norway in the beginning of the 20th century. Besides, by tracing the career development of students from this period, and their contribution to the Norwegian landscape architecture, we are able to reveal the impact of education at Ås on the development of the country (Norway achieved independence from the union with Sweden in 1905). The collection can also be used to study different drawing techniques and shifts in design preferences and fashion. The collection of student works mirrors the development of the Norwegian Agricultural College at Ås (NLH) as an educational unit offering courses in horticulture and garden art.

Student works with different drawing techniques, 1900-1960

In 1887, a horticulture program was established at the Agricultural College. The admission to this 2-year program required a completed gardener’s education. The study was divided into theoretical and practical subjects. Lectures included horticulture, botany, cultivation in kitchen gardens, orchards, tree nurseries and parks, as well as elementary mathematics and Norwegian. The practical teachings, according to documents from the School Board (Skolerådet 1875), “should include gardening, carpentry, painting and drawing, surveying and botanical excursions”.

In 1897, NLH became a scientific college (vitenskapelig høgskole). The oldest student works in the collection are from this year. In the beginning, the number of students was small. However, they were the pioneers of modern horticulture research, education and practice in Norway.

One of the early student works is made by Olav Skard (1881-1965). He graduated in 1904 together with three other students. After graduation, he went to Denmark for further education before becoming a teacher at several horticultural schools in Norway. In 1934, he received a professorship at Ås. Skard contributed extensively in the research and cultivation of fruit trees in Norway.

A typical career development of the horticulture students from Ås can be seen in the CV of Stener Stenersen (1881-1958). He graduated from Ås in 1905 together with two other students, Stenersen first became the district gardener of Bærum, then the county gardener of Sogn and Fjordane, and from 1911 the county gardener of Akershus. At the same time, he taught horticulture in the county college of Akershus. From 1918 he started his own practice as garden architect, and besides this, he taught at the State Gardener School between 1933-51.

In the collection, one can find the final graduation project of Marius Røhne (1883-1966). He graduated in 1911 as a horticulturalist. After further practices in Denmark and Germany, he settled down in Oslo in 1913 as a practicing garden architect. He designed the park landscape for the exhibition in the Frogner Park in Oslo for the Norwegian constitution centennial in 1914. He was the City Gardener in Oslo from 1916 to 1948. In this position, Røhne made a major contribution to the development of green parks in Oslo. Among his most important projects are the riverside development along Akerselva, which started shortly after his appointment, and the neighborhood parks Torshovparken and Torshovdalen, which were carried out together with garden architect Eyvind Strøm (1889 – 1988) during the 1920s-30s. Both of these projects show the modernist tendency that marked the beginning of modernist landscape architecture in Norway. One of Røhne’s major contributions to Norwegian landscape architecture was the planning of green paths in Oslo, published in city architect Harald Hals’ Master Plan in 1929. The plan creates a network connecting the central area of Oslo and the forests surrounding the city (Jørgensen 2011).

Graduation project of Marius Røhne (1883-1966), planting plan for Villa Falsen, 1911

There are two other interesting examples of works by the graduates from the horticulture program between 1912-15. Oddvar Lund (1888-1974), graduated in 1912, became the county gardener in Hedmark from 1913-17. He was teacher at State Gardener School in Oslo from 1918-24 and rector from 1925-39. He continued his career in the Ministry of Agriculture. Lund contributed with several publications in gardening and horticulture. Graduated in 1915, Trygve Andersen was the head gardener in Norwegian State Railways (NSB) between 1943-61. He played an important role in the last prosperous time of the park culture in NSB. Since the railway started in Norway in 1854, railway stations have become important meeting points for people. Almost all railway stations had their own parks or gardens, which were planned first by gardeners and later by garden architects.

The first female student works in the collection appeared in 1917. They are the examination projects by Astri Frisak (1883-1978) and Magna Tørud (1889-?). Both female students graduated as horticulturists in 1917. Frisak became an expert in seed breeding and worked at Statens Frøkontroll (States seed control) for many years. However, information about Tørud is missing.

Graduation project of Magna Tørud (1889-?), Garden of grocer NN with planting plan, 1917

The final student project of Olav L. Moen (1887 – 1951) is also preserved in the collection. Moen graduated in 1918 as a horticulturist from NLH. After graduation, he got a degree in “garden art” under the guidance of garden architect Willy Lange in Berlin, and returned to Ås to take up the position as docent in garden architecture in 1921. In 1938, he was appointed as professor. Through his publications, his teaching and his design and realization of parks and gardens, Moen was the most central figure in the development of the academic discipline of landscape architecture in Norway in the first half of the 20th century.

Many graduation projects include detailed descriptions for the proposed plans, here Olav Moen´s (1887-1951) description of a villa garden, 1918

From 1917, the school board of the College and the Norwegian government started the discussion about the establishment of a separate programme in garden architecture. The school board proposed to split the horticulture program into three divisions: cultivation of fruit trees, cultivation of vegetables, and garden art. In addition, they advised to increase the study time from 2 years to 3 years. According to the proposal made by the school board, garden art is “a subject that includes many tasks and has a wide range of opportunities for development. This subject has importance for all levels in society…”. They finished the proposal with the suggestion of establishing a chair of garden architecture at Ås (Skolerådet 1917). In 1919, the new program in garden architecture started, which is one of the first such programs in the world. In 1922, the first group of students graduated. There was obviously a need for this competence in society. Several graduates later gained high positions in the public sectors, and others established thriving garden architectural offices.

Projects from 1920s onwards are more diverse than from the previous years, sections of student works 1930-1960

The student works in the archive from 1920s onwards are more diverse than from the previous years. In the collection, there are not only proposals for villa gardens, but also plans for parks, cemeteries and sport fields. In addition, the projects include detailed plans for planting and construction, and detailed descriptions.

Graduation project of Else Collett (1905-1990), proposal for Nordstrand cemetery, 1934

The collection also contains the final student project of Oddvin Reisæter (1913-83) made in 1938. He graduated in the garden art program in 1938 and worked as a garden architect in offices in Oslo, Berlin and Stockholm. In 1940, he became a teacher and assistant for professor Olav Leif Moen at NLH. His main interest was the cultivation of trees. After some years of research in this topic, he took over the position as docent in dendrology in 1947 at NLH. Reisæter had an extensive publication list. In addition, he also established a collection of dendrology with more than 90.000 illustrations.

Graduation project of Oddvin Reisæter (1913-1983), proposal for park with sports field, 1938

In the 1940s collection, new topics and subjects appeared. Elise Sørsdal (1912-2011) made a proposal for an allotment garden as part of her examination project in 1944. Sørsdal first worked as a garden architect in the city of Trondheim between 1946-51. In 1948 she made a proposal for the city park of Mosjøen, which since 2009 has been protected by law. Later, she worked as an assistant and teacher at NLH between 1951-54 and at the State Gardener School Jensvoll in Lier between 1966-1979. Sørsdal was also a founding member of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA), which was established in Cambridge, U.K., on 14th August 1948. Later she became the international delegate for Norway in IFLA.

Graduation project of Elise Sørsdal, allotment gardens, 1944

The collection since 1948 indicates an increased number of students (20 graduates per year). One of the graduates in 1959 was Egil Gabrielsen (1933-1998). In the same year, he established the office Grindaker and Gabrielsen together with Morten Grindaker (1925-2017). They collaborated with the architect Erling Viksjø in the projects Regjeringskvartalet (Government quarters) in 1959 and Hydroparken in 1960-63. In 1963, Grindaker and Gabrielsen represented Norway in the International Garden Exhibition in Hamburg, IGA. Egil Gabrielsen worked at NLH since 1965 and became Professor in 1969.

Graduation project of Egil Gabrielsen (1933-1998), sketch of villa gardens 1959


K. Jørgensen: “Landscape architecture in Norway: a playful adaptation to a sturdy nature”. Web, [April 2011].

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