Luther College landscape architect inducted into Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame

December 11, 2019

Jens Jensen is remembered as one of America's greatest landscape designers and conservationists. He worked in spaces with American architects including Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan as well as in Chicago parks, parkways, green belts and natural preserves. Jensen also served as the landscape architect of Luther College. Now he is being honored for his work and will be inducted to the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame during their 2020 ceremony.

The landscape of Luther College was carefully crafted by Jensen and his commitment to "awaken people to the beauties around them and to reconnect them to the biological heritage" at their doorstep. His vison for the landscape of Luther College began in 1909 with a commitment to highlighting natural spaces, land conservation and individual interaction with the land.

            When walking on Luther's campus, one can't help but notice the natural beauty comprised of vast bluffs, natural prairies, rolling hills, flowing water and large, whimsical trees. It's evidence that Jensen's work has survived the generations.

            Luther's campus was shaped around three sunlit clearings. A large one in front of Main building, another in front of Preus Library and a third where the Center for Faith and Life now stands. Jensen scattered maples, white pines and birch trees within these clearings and in the large clearing in front of Main, he planted a cottonwood tree as a symbol of the American plains which remains today. Jensen also did away with straight lines as he favored sweeping curves that interact with natural elements.

            Commitment to land conservation continues at Luther and in the Jensen family. Jensen's great-great-grandson, who bears his same name, was on Luther's campus in November working on a project to maintain forestry in Hickory Ridge Woods. Jens the second and his team removed cedar tree overgrowth.

            "The density of these trees prevents sunlight from getting to the ground which means there is no ground cover. We are helping clear these so the area can be better managed with fire and get native plant diversity back," says Jensen.

            Jensen also spoke about his personal connection to the land, an ideal both he and his great-great-grandfather shared.

            "If you become more engaged in your local area, I think that it is not only better for the environment, but is better for the people too because they feel more connected to the land," says Jensen.

            Additionally, Jensen explained how he channels his great-great-grandfather in his work.

            "Aspects such as his use of curved lines and his writings definitely influence me. I find myself reading about things that I would do too," says Jensen.

            The Wisconsin Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place on April 25. The Wisconsin Hall of Fame foundation has the goal of celebrating, advancing and sharing Wisconsin's conservation legacy.

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