Theodor (1810–1893) and Otto (1844–1906) Froebel are two of the most important personalities of Swiss garden design of the 19th century. With their multifaceted œuvre, they made a significant contribution to the emergence of Swiss landscape architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Above all, Theodor and Otto Froebel were gardeners: Father and son ran a nursery with their own plant breeding programme, which became one of the most important breeding programmes in Switzerland under Otto Froebel, gaining them international prestige. Their fascination with the biodiversity of the plant world, as well as their design and breeding experience, was clearly demonstrated in their work. Typically for the 19th century, the direct influence of gardening can be read in their designs.
The Froebels built a number of private and public projects throughout Switzerland in the mixed style of landscape gardens popular in the second half of the 19th century. Their projects still influence the appearance of Zurich to this day, from its lakeside parks to Rieter Park.
The Froebels stand for the blossoming of bourgeois garden design in the context of industrialization and burgeoning cities. Theodor and Otto Froebel continually expanded the inventory of their nursery with a number of new varieties of plants, both useful as well as decorative types. Their firm was known throughout Europe as an important station in the training of successive generations of garden designers and plant breeders, some of whom worked well into the modern era of the 20th century.
The research builds on past and ongoing research on the history and theory of Swiss landscape architecture at the Institute of Landscape Architecture of ETH Zurich. An examination of the work of Theodor and Otto Froebel can contribute to closing the large knowledge gap on the Swiss garden culture of the 19th century. Here, the central question is the interplay between plant breeding and trade on one side and garden design on the other. Based on carefully chosen examples, the research should also set the work of the Froebels into the background of the times, as well as in the context of Swiss garden culture.
Prof. Christophe Girot
Dr. Eeva Ruoff
Dr. Johannes Stoffler
Swiss National Science Foundation, SNF
2011 – 2015