My name is Arnold van der Valk and I teach the 2nd year BSc Tourism course: ‘Tourism Development & Planning‘. I spend most of my time as a lecturer and researcher at Wageningen University. My field of expertise is spatial planning, landscape heritage and planning theory. Tourism is a novel dimension to my research portfolio.
Tourism and leisure attracted my attention in the context of a NWO-funded research project labelled ‘Protecting and Developing the Soil Archive’. Between 2000 and 2010 I was assistant research-manager of an interdisciplinary team of (predominantly) archaeologists, historians, geographers, leisure experts, planners and landscape architects. This project developed a new method of landscape analysis fit for application in landscape planning. It’s called landscape biography. The underlying idea is that contemporary landscapes and so-called covered landscapes (traces of human occupation buried under sediments) are open for inspection in very much the same way as a human life. A biographer digs into a person’s roots and contacts in order to explain or interpret her successes and failures, her motives and role-models. A landscape biographer produces a concise picture of the elements in a contemporary landscape and interprets them in a time frame of human interventions and natural impacts. Today the method of landscape biography is applied frequently in the context of local and regional planning in the Netherlands.
During the research period I have been involved in a couple of regional case studies situated in the centre and the North of the Netherlands (Drentsche Aa). The Drentsche Aa landscape biography is a voluminous study which is frequently used as a work of reference for tourism destination plans and brochures conceived to foster leisure in the Northern part of Drenthe province. Nature and landscape heritage are top attractions of this popular tourist destination. One of the most interesting aspects about my research project is the relevance for my private life. My wife and I love to undertake weekend trips and we were thrilled by the amenities of Drentsche Aa region which our research team brought to light.
Recently I have embarked upon another fascinating research topic being sustainable food planning and urban agriculture. This theme reflects our growing concern about food scares, hunger, decreasing soil quality and – from a more positive perspective – growing opportunities for agriculture in and around built up areas in cities. For example, young entrepreneurs have constructed a temporary urban farm right in the heart of the city of Rotterdam at Marconiplein on a vacant lot of land. They cleaned the rubble from an old rail yard, covered it with a basement of concrete and put a meter of fertile soil on top of it. They labelled the farm ‘Uit je Eigen Stad‘; fresh food from your own city. The story of the conception of this urban farm is a new urban legend which has inspired many food researchers. Food is novel territory for planning scholars. My guess is that it is also a promising new topic for tourism and leisure.
If you are interested in landscape heritage or urban agriculture please check out some of my papers HERE.