Time & Identity



Gardens and landscapes, by their very nature, are dynamic, even historic ones. 

Each time we are shown such old gardens and asked to think about how their future could be, we feel privileged to try and understand the original context and intentions and to give the garden new long-term directions. Past and present are bound to exist alongside one another and our approach is to bond the two in harmony.

Whether it be a turn of the century manor garden in urgent need of rejuvenation or the complete overhaul of an originally ‘modernist’ but derelict embassy garden by René Pechère, time and again these historic contexts bring with them a weight of associations, to be handled with care and clairvoyance.

For the manor house in Brussels we had to look for subtle continuations while recreating a woodland atmosphere.

The remaining flagstones and stone slabs found on site were mixed with others to remake a patinated walk along the house, and a new circular water basin organizes the entrance area with its welcoming sound. Grateful for some nice rhododendron specimens already in place, we complemented these with a nice selection of also deciduous rhododendron (formerly called azaleas) while also bringing flowering accents throughout the other seasons with for example winter flowering quince (Chaenomeles).

The same circular water feature comes back in our design for the garden of the French embassy in Brussels, where two of them serve as the central anchor points of this newly recreated ceremonial garden.

Very sober, almost classical in its rigid layout with straight concrete paths and stairs connecting the embassy with the ambassador’s residence, we recreated a framework reminiscent of the original intentions and in which a luxuriance of botanic textures, fragrances and colors can develop freely. The old trees are complemented with flowering lilacs and roses, while the central lawn comes to live with daffodils at the wake of spring.

A third exercise in new long term directions, again in Brussels, clearly asked for a more contemporary approach in tune with the thoroughly renovated townhouse.

Here an outdoor room was carefully crafted out, slightly sunken below the surrounding gardens and protected from neighboring views. A delicate carpet in bright limestone follows the undulating terrain and defines a walk and central seating area where one is alone with the birds under a canopy of textured leaves of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) with flowering accents of witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis) and cherry trees (Prunus).

Render – 997 Beguinage, Antwerp

756 Museum Smidt van Gelder, Antwerp

989 Manor house, Brussels

843 French Embassy, Brussels

968 Townhouse, Brussels

© 2024 Erik Dhont