On Friday, 5th September 2014 the European Garden Awards by EGHN (European Garden Heritage Network) and the Schloss Dyck Foundation were awarded for the fifth time.
The European Garden Heritage Network EGHN with its partners in 10 European countries (France, UK, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Austria) started the European Garden Award in 2010. The European Garden Award does not solely focus on spectacular garden art or well-maintained herbaceous borders. According to the traditions of EGHN and based on its objectives and specific skills and experiences, the award follows a broader approach.
Category 1: Best Development of a historic park or garden
Winner: The Lost Gardens of Heligan (GB)
Heligan, seat of the Tremayne family for more than 400 years, is one of the most mysterious estates in England. At the end of the nineteenth century its thousand acres were at their zenith, but only a few years later bramble and ivy were already drawing a green veil over this “Sleeping Beauty”. After decades of neglect, the devastating hurricane of 1990 should have consigned the Lost Gardens of Heligan to a footnote in history.
Instead, a tiny room was discovered, buried under fallen masonry in the corner of one of the walled gardens. A motto etched into the limestone walls in barely legible pencil still reads “Don’t come here to sleep or slumber” with the names of those who worked there signed under the date – August 1914. This was the start to bring these glorious gardens back to life in every sense and to tell, for the first time, not tales of lords and ladies but of those “ordinary” people who had made these gardens great, before departing for the Great War.
The gardens include aged and colossal rhododendrons and camellias, a series of lakes fed by a ram pump over a hundred years old, highly productive flower and vegetable gardens, an Italian garden, and a wild area filled with sub-tropical tree ferns called “The Jungle”. The gardens also have Europe’s only remaining pineapple pit, warmed by rotting manure, and two figures made from rocks and plants known as the Mud Maid and the Giant’s Head.
The gardens are now leased by a company owned by their restorers, who continue to cultivate them and operate them as a visitor attraction. There is a large working team with its own vision for the third decade. The team intends Heligan to remain a living and working example of the best of past practice, with a contemporary focus on working with nature and protecting and enhancing the variety of habitats.
Sanssouci, Potsdam (Germany)
Since 1990 Park Sanssouci is part of the larger World Heritage Site “Castles and Parks in Berlin and Potsdam”. It is helpful to quote from the UNESCO documents: “Potsdam-Sanssouci – frequently called the “Prussian Versailles” – is the crystallization of a great number of influences from Italy, England, Flanders, Paris, and Dresden. A synthesis of art trends in European cities and courts in the 18th century, the castle and the park offer new models that have greatly influenced the development of the monumental arts and the organization of space.”
In 1995, the Foundation for Prussian Palaces and Gardens in Berlin-Brandenburg was established to care for Sanssouci and the other former imperial palaces and parks in and around Berlin. Key restoration work, including some activities related to Sanssouci, has been listed in a Masterplan that will be implemented with about 155 million Euro until 2017.
Numerous events, e.g. on literature and music, but also new ideas, such as After Work Guided Tours attract new visitors. Good communication is very important too: a visitor magazine “sans,souci.” (Without sorrows) is published four times and year and distributed in two local newspapers. Marketing, communication and design of the foundation have been granted many prestigious awards in the recent years.
At the moment there is an innovative open-air-exhibition in the park of Sanssouci called “Paradiesapfel” (paradise apple). It invites visitors to engage all their senses and to experience the park as a historically evolving synthesis of the arts. The exhibition stimulates interest in new insights and provides views into royal garden worlds. A total of 19 sites and several “interventions” in the park encourage visitors to experience diverse facets of the gardens, such as “cultivation”, “design” and “enjoyment”.
The jury enjoyed this mix of world heritage and modern ideas and agreed on Sanssouci as one this year’s finalists.
Hedge House, Kasteel Wylre (Netherlands)
There is much you can say about Hedge House and Kasteel Wijlre. But it is much better to go there for a visit, to enjoy an honest welcome, to explore the genius and secret of the place and to have very private encounters with art.
The estate can be called a “piece of art with many dimensions” or “Gesamtkunstwerk”. It was created by Jo and Marlies Eyck, based on their art collection, but also important on a specific philosophy of life, linking art to the beautiful natural surroundings of the castle at Wijlre. The castle gardens have become an important exhibition space, a garden and a manor house that are in dialogue with nature. In 1999 the Hedge House was added as a very modern exhibition building of concrete and glass. As a linear exhibition space it folds out into one of the garden’s compartments, opening views into the garden and reflecting the garden on the outside.
There is English style parkland with curving walks, rare tree species and modern sculptures. On the opposite side of the castle, there are formally laid out gardens close to the Hedge House. And there is a small wood where land art by Giuseppe Penone can be discovered.
The future of the site is secured now as the Bonnefanten Hedge House Foundation was set up and is in charge for maintaining and developing this beautiful garden and excellent art collection.
Category 2: Innovative contemporary concept or design of a park or garden
Winner: Zukunftspark Killesberg, Stuttgart (Germany)
Not far from the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design and the Weißenhof, and next to the grounds of the former Reichsgarten horticultural show, this former trade fair ground was developed as a new urban district with a focus on creative industries and housing. Much like a ‘Green Joint’, a large-scale extension to Killesberg Park is the green heart of the new quarter, adding new features of present-day landscape design: “Zukunftspark Killesberg”.
The new park is the result of the fusion of two themes characterising Killesberg: smooth, near-natural landscape and man-made quarries as hard topographies. In terms of space, the latter theme has been implemented by superimposing enormous masses of earth onto the former quarry areas and show grounds – smoothing out irregularities – and by a new topography of lawn cushions between path systems.
This project was carried out in a participatory process of local authorities as well as citizens and neighbours providing an understanding of the design intent and a convincing basis for subsequent decisions.
Hill-shaped pads of grass, traversed by a tightly knit network of paths, make the experience of the park even more alluring. The animated topography and the lowered paths offer visitors a wide range of perspectives when sauntering through the park. As Killesberg has always been a place of trees, the new design of the parks includes empress trees, hedges of crab apples as well as old fruit tree species extending into the residential area. Thus there is a mix of local tradition and exotic aliens.
The residential houses are grouped around a garden courtyard. This courtyard is characterised by grass-covered parterres sheltered by a roof of trimmed historic fruit tree varieties. Individual hedge bordering and pavements give each of the housing clusters its own character.
The demolition of a multi-storey car park uncovered the Rote Wand, a natural landmark of red sandstone reminding of the former use as a quarry. Traditional design purposes rooting in Romanticism have been translated into the form of a spatial invitation to a stroll through new worlds of experience of organic landscape and nature.
City Dune, Copenhagen (Denmark)
A public place and landscape in Copenhagen in front of a new bank office has used very characteristic design tools to create a welcoming and very original atmosphere.
But it´s also very obvious that the landscape architect Stig Lennart Andersson (SLA landscape architects) has been inspired by the Danish natural landscape. The fields of concrete can be regarded as fields of sand and snow marching into the forest. This is where the name “City Dune” comes from.
The result is a sustainable and fully accessible urban space covering an area of 7.300 m2. Like a giant dune of sand or snow it slips in between the buildings, thereby creating a spatial coherence in the design. Simultaneously, the urban space, elevated 7 meters above the surroundings, ensures the mobility of pedestrians and cyclists.
Through the folding movements of the concrete, the surface reflects as much of the incoming sun radiation as possible, thereby creating a cooler microclimate during the hot months of the year. This cooling effect is further enhanced by the plantation, and by the 110 water atomizers emitting out moist air, spread by the wind. As such, no rainwater ends up in the sewers or on the roads.
The trees and herbaceous borders are placed in cracks between the horizontal planes. Both deciduous and evergreen plantation has been utilized to achieve the metabolism of water throughout the year in addition to enhancing the microclimatic environment with wind and shelter.
The trees and plantations are not arranged to copy nature. It is a new manner of seeing and experiencing nature in the city. The ambition is to create an urban view of nature through a design that clarifies the presence of nature as a process, while simultaneously supporting acclimatization and other functional conditions.
A poetic sense combined with an ecological awareness has created a new best practice for public spaces in a very urban context.
Autostadt, Wolfsburg (Germany)
Since its start in 2000 the Autostadt, as the Volkswagen Group’s theme park and communications platform, has engaged with themes and values which are fundamental to responsible business practice. Since 2006 themes like environmental protection and social responsibility have been brought together under the heading of sustainable development.
A highly moving and contrasting, vivid, complex, dense and artistic landscape, predominantly hilly and with a lot of water forms the site of the Autostadt, created by WES LandschaftsArchitektur. Peninsulas with hard edges are combined with peninsulas with soft and smooth transition into the water. A landscape that captures the individual building, wraps and links it, but also creates and provides a very unique location for each pavilion.
The green and the colours of the plants and shrubs and the hills create gentle breaks between the individual architectural elements. Along the banks of the Mittelland Canal willows were planted and on the promenade plane trees and pines. On the riverside path the light is bright while under the umbrella of the promenade it is rather shady. These opposites of yin and yang, soft and hard, shady and sunny, male and female, shape the landscape composition.
Passing the Zeithaus (time house) and the Forum the promenade leads up to the Piazzetta, a quiet and sunny place between the two pavilions for Porsche and Volkswagen. This place with a pond and a fountain invites visitors to relax and to recharge.
Every year at springtime the Autostadt’s park prepares itself for a spectacular event: the renewal of Olafur Eliasson’s Dufttunnel (Scent Tunnel). Until autumn the tunnel is filled with different flowers in more than 2000 flower pots.
Recently new gardens were added to the Autostadt, one of it is called “Doing Nothing”. The jury agreed on Autostadt as one finalist because on the overall concept and themes, but also because they are always “Doing Something”.
Category 3: Special Award of the Schloss Dyck Foundation
Winner: Arche Noah, Schiltern (Austria)
ARCHE NOAH was established in 1990 on the initiative of heirloom – gardeners, farmers and journalists, concerned with the future of seeds and old varieties.
ARCHE NOAH responds to the loss of agro-biodiversity with a positive vision and numerous activities. This demonstrates how all of us can contribute to more diversity through cultivation of threatened varieties in the garden, through shopping awareness and political commitment. This attitude connects more than 8.000 members involved. It is to look at our cultural plants respectfully, to value gardening and farming as a cultural achievement, to consider ethically motivated consume as a contribution to organic and sustainable agriculture, to make cooking a declaration of love.
ARCHE NOAH’s garden is located in the valley of the River Kamp not far from the City of Krems/Donau, in a small town called Schiltern. Through a beautiful wrought-iron gate visitors enter a formal baroque garden – today home to hundreds of rare cultural plants grown organically. There is something for everyone at ARCHE NOAH´s Garden – for gardeners, farmers, shoppers, children and those simply looking for a relaxing day out. Over the season, visitors can always find something new to explore in the garden. More than 30.000 visitors yearly are attracted by the beautiful garden with its huge diversity shown.
The ARCHE NOAH Seed Bank is one of Europe’s biggest private collections of cultural plants, maintaining over 6.000 accessions of rare vegetables and grains – many of them are not to be found in any other places any more. The breeding, description und research on these plants is carried out in a special (organic!) breeding garden.
There are also huge collections of fruits and berries, which are partly kept in the visitor´s garden, but mostly they have been “adopted” by members and are preserved in different private orchards. Furthermore the maintenance of more than 200 rare potato varieties is really hard work – all the varieties have to be planted and harvested every single year. Organic farmers from the region “Waldviertel” assist in fulfilling this task.
Category 4: Large Scale Green Concepts
Winner: National Urban Parks (Finland)
Green zones, wedges or corridors are far from new invention. But there are signs of a comeback of green zones and networks in urban planning, this time under the auspices of multi-functionality and climate change adaptation.
In Finland, the need for more intensified land use and urban infill puts great pressure on valuable urban environments like green areas and historical quarters and can lead to short-sighted, scattered development and to loss of sense of a place.
One policy to avoid this is very successful – the National Urban Park (NUP). The initiative to be accepted as a NUP and the relevant charter come bottom-up from the city government. The Ministry of the Environment grants the charter but has also a consultative role in the application and further development processes of the NUP.
The NUP zone must fulfil the following criteria and must fit into the operative city plans: diverse environments, including urban biodiversity, cultural historical structures, scenic parks and green areas, the inclusion of the central urban core area, undisturbed and extensive green and recreation areas and interconnections with a possibility to walk from one district to another, and ecology and continuity with corridors and links to natural, rural and forest areas outside the city centre.
The National Urban Park status does not exclude development, from which may follow land use conflicts. Any major change in regard to the central values of National Urban Parks must be negotiated between the city representatives and the Ministry of the Environment. The network has so far six NUPs with different cultural and natural landscapes, townscapes, historical characteristics, and biodiversity as well as social, recreational and other special values.
The network of National Urban Parks provides the most valuable Finnish urban environments. A NUP also represents image value to the cities, which indeed is one of the key motives for their foundation. At the same time, NUPs are everyday outdoor living rooms for citizens and visitors.