Donald Jacob

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Donald Jacob
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Basel, Switzerland
  • Author
  • Visual artist
  • Ecologist
  • Activist
  • Landscape architect

Donald Claude Jacob (born 1963) is a swiss author, visual artist, ecologist, activist and landscape architect. Jacob’s artistic doing includes installations, live performances with bodypainting and dance[1] , sculptures, abstract and photorealistic paintings as well as photography.

Since the 1980s he has been actively involved in nature conservation with focus on urban planning, ecology and the impact of human actions on the environment. He has published in various specialist media and gives lectures.


Donald Jacob was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1963 to Alfred and Doris Jacob (Ulbrich). He grew up in a small townhouse together with his grandparents. At age 14 his parents separated, and Jacob stayed with his mother.

Starting in his childhood Donald Jacob developed a very profound connection to nature and to his environment. In his early teens he started to get increasingly concerned by the destruction and the pollution of nature and his urge to do something to preserve nature grew continuously, finally leading up to the foundation of An Action for a Better Environment (ABU). Jacob launched ABU together with a handful of likeminded school friends. ABU was highly political and made cross border headlines due to manifestations against nuclear power plants and forest die-back where ABU laid dead tree trunks across main roads and even managed to smother the Basel city parliament in artificial mist during a political session. 1982 ABU initiated project ökoba (ökostation Basel), its goal was to build an eco-station, a model ecological house where visitors would be able to experience what can be done in terms of climate protection in buildings and gardens.

Jacob always wanted to change the world, make society more social, make people aware of nature, its perfectness, beauty and especially the danger which bears its pollution and destruction.

At the young age of 17 Jacob moved out of his parents’ house. At the age of 19, in 1982, he went for a one-year trip around the world. The experiences he made during this travel should shape his variated work in the field of art and architecture decisively. On 1st November 1986, a major chemical disaster occurred in Basel.[2]

Jacob initiated and organized a human chain from Basel to Rotterdam. The catastrophe was devastating and as a result things substantially changed. The water quality of the Rhine has since improved enormously –today thousands of people swim in the river every summer.

Jacob learned goldsmith, in the studio of Alexander Schaffner, and went to the art school of Basel.

Not having any financial support nor inheritance Jacob was obliged to gain his money starting from being a teenager. He worked as a landscape gardener which he had taught to himself. He passed the exam as one of the best of his year. Later he became landscape architect, again as autodidact and got approved by the association of landscape architects Switzerland (BSLA)[3]. Also he finished his studies in ecology at the University of Tübingen, Germany and is part of the Swiss association for engineers and architects (SIA)[4]. In 1986 he founded his own landscape firm that grew up to 18 employees.

In 1994 his two sons were born, from a relation with Henriette Koechlin.

In 1996 he founded a plant nursery for native plants. He sold both firms in 1998 and founded Suninvest, a company to build solar plants. In the mid-90s, Jacob planned and built the first large 50-KW solar plants in Basel. He took his commitment to the environment for granted, as he says: “after all, it is the basis of my very existence.” However back then, environmental protection was still pioneering work that was often mocked. The consumption- and profit-driven neoliberal market allowed the issue of the environment to be drowned within large financial bubbles. In Switzerland, subsidies for solar plants were withdrawn and Jacob was forced to close Suninvest. He was overcome by a feeling of powerlessness, by a loss of trust in politics.

From 2002-2005 he worked at Gruner AG, as head of the landscape architecture department. 2005 Jacob founded his own landscape architecture firm jacobplanung, which is where he works to this day. Since his late teens Jacob was enthusiastic about art and held several exhibitions[5].

In 2005 he had the idea of a CentralParkBasel[6][7][8], which was going to be an enormous park covering the railways in Basel, leading up to a referendum in 2013, which was declined[9]. In 2014 he initiated and organized the BaselGardenFestival, a contemporary garden show analog to Chelsea flower show, which had to be canceled just before the start, due to particular interests of powerful opponents. To this day Jacob keeps working continuously as a pioneer with never ending engagement for society and nature, now also as an author writing the manifest “Constitution for the living planet”[10]. Also he is an active living artist.


  1. "Kunst(Zeug)Haus Rapperswil-Jona - Sommerfest". Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  2. "Chemiekatastrophe Schweizerhalle" – via
  3. "BSLA - Finden Sie ein Büro". BSLA. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  4. "individual members". sia | schweizerischer ingenieur- und architektenverein. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  5. "Donald Jacob" (PDF).
  6. Maurer, Andreas. "Central-Park - Architekt Donald Jacob fordert Geld für sein Vorprojekt zum Centralpark". bz Basel. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  7. "Ein Visionär lässt nicht locker". Basler Zeitung. ISSN 1420-3006. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  8. "CentralParkBasel :: 30'000m² Land für Basel". Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  9. "Donald Jacob, Architekt und geistiger Vater (22.9.2013) - Regi BS BL - SRF". Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF). Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  10. "Eine Verfassung für die Erde". Retrieved 2022-04-03.

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