Introducing Jung-Hwa Kim, Postdoctoral Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH)

OPENspace is pleased to host Jung-Hwa Kim and welcome her to the University of Edinburgh. Her research explores contemporary landscape architecture, the redevelopment of botanical gardens, showing them as the theatre of plants; an emblem of the human relationship with nature. She will be reviewing the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, as well as others in the UK. In this blog post you can find out more about Kim and her research project at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH).


Jung-Hwa Kim is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh and a Visiting Researcher of the Environmental Planning Institute at the Seoul National University. Before launching her academic career, Kim worked as a landscape architect in several design firms in Seoul, Korea. She holds a PhD in Engineering and has received an MLA and a BS in Agriculture from the Seoul National University. She has previously served as a lecturer at the Graduate Landscape Architecture Programme of Gachon University in South Korea in 2015 and 2017 and as a short-term fellow at the International Centre for Jefferson Studies in the US. Her scholarly interest focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century landscape history and global, contemporary landscape architecture. Her work explores the global transfer of ideas and the role of politics, technology, and plants in the field.

Research Project at IASH

  1. Outline

Since their origin as teaching gardens at medical universities, botanical gardens have functioned as a platform to collect and display plants for educational purposes. They have served as living ‘encyclopaedias’ showing knowledge about nature, as exemplified by the title page of Theatrum Botanicum by the famed seventeenth-century herbalist and botanist John Parkinson.

However, the role of botanical gardens is changing and expanding today. Botanical gardens in the 21st century not only contribute to the spread of knowledge about plants but also inspire people to take steps to conserve or cultivate plants. The new social role of botanical gardens requires fresh modes of nature and display. Accordingly, landscape architecture studios have created innovative botanical displays. As a result, many historic botanical gardens have been reinvented through new master plans. The redevelopment of botanical gardens is especially prominent in the United Kingdom, which possesses many botanical gardens with a long history.

At IASH at the University of Edinburgh, her research project aims to explore a phenomenon in contemporary landscape architecture, the reinvention of botanical gardens, by placing it in a longer lineage to show botanical gardens as the theatre of plants, an emblem of the human relationship with nature. She will review recent master-plan projects of botanical gardens in the UK, such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

  1. Previous accomplishments

Kim has studied the history of botanical gardens in Korea, with an emphasis on the transnational transfer of ideas, technology, and plants. By reviewing the introduction of Neo-Confucianism and the change of perspective on nature and plants in the thirteenth century Kora, she has revealed that the interest in native medicinal plants had grown and promoted to establish royal physic gardens. Through a review of Korean intellectuals’ visits to botanical gardens in the West from 1876 to 1910, she has found that establishing gardens was regarded as a means of civilisation. In an analysis of the Changgyeongwon Botanical Garden from 1910 to 1945, she has shown that the first botanical garden in Korea played a role in developing knowledge and taste.

As a short-term fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies in Virginia, US, in March 2018, she has investigated the background and significance of Thomas Jefferson’s Botanical Garden at the University of Virginia. Furthermore, she has participated in planning the Seoul Botanic Park, which will open to the public this year.

  1. Relevance to Edinburgh and collaborative outcomes

The UK contains many historic botanical gardens, such as the Oxford Botanic Garden, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Chelsea Physic Garden. Edinburgh is a central city in the network of Scottish botanical gardens, with the second oldest botanical garden, Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh. Edinburgh is also home to the GROSS. MAX. design studio, which proposed a new master plan for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) at the Edinburgh College of Art already has a good working relationship with the Botanical Garden Edinburgh and regularly holds classes there. This would also provide her with the opportunity to contact Edinburgh-based landscape architecture studios. Through collaborations with ESALA, she will access the previously networked botanic gardens in Edinburgh and practitioners, which are essential resources for her research.

In collaboration with OPENspace she will develop seminars/workshops about design approaches to the issues of health and well-being in botanical gardens.