Choorstraat – Papenhulst

Buro Lubbers: Between 2000 and 2004 a former cloister in the historic centre of ‘s-Hertogenbosch has been transformed into a luxurious apartment building. Only the front facade in the street has been remained. Behind this façade, contemporary architecture gives the inner court a new image. By demolishing the side wing of the cloister not only the existing court was expanded, also the façade of the neogothical chapel became visible. In this marvellous historic setting combined with modern architecture Buro Lubbers designed a courtyard that belongs to the sequence of courts and squares around the Sint-Jans-Cathedral in the lively town centre of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Furthermore, the garden offers a spectacular view at the cathedral.


The starting point for the design was to create a quality boost to the city by the addition of special housing and the transformation of the private courtyard to a semi-public square. The new square would be an attractive addition to the series of urban open spaces in town, such as the market, the squares Kerkplein and Parade, the gardens of the Orangerie and the Casino, and the Vughterdriehoek. The courtyard has a private character, it is a hidden while open spot in the busy city. It provides space to relax, to sit, to dream, to eat, to look, to stay and to listen to the carillon of the Sint-Jans-Cathedral. The modesty of the design created a site that radiates serenity and allure.

Cool wine under transparent foliage

The courtyard is paved in an apparent, random pattern with narrow strips of burned Irish stone rich of fossils. Here and there wooden strips are included in the pavement on which banks and chairs are positioned. The banks and chairs are placed so that one can choose between a place in the sun or the shade, under the trees or on the square overlooking the rooftops of St. Jan. The central design element is the wooden table of 24 meters in which a water element is integrated serving as wine cooler. In the table the ducts of the underlying parking are also included, invisible. 24 wooden puff are grouped around the table. The location of the garden above the garage limited the design possibilities. Where possible – right next to the existing chapel and next to the monastery garden – characteristic trees are planted in the full ground. The thin leaves of the dead bones tree (Gymnocladus dioicus) shows light, but its transparancy does not cover the façade of the chapel. The trees are lighted from the ground creating a special atmosphere in the evening. From the hinge point of the L-shaped square some special lighting poles are placed that vary in height. They are important three-dimensional elements in the square. Each pole has a number of spotlights to highlight particular objects.

In practice

During the design phase it was assumed that both the residents and the visitors to the city were to use the courtyard. The design was made for a semi-public space that during daytime would be accessible to everyone. In practice, the association of owners decided to keep the access closed day and night. The courtyard is now only accessible for residents. This change in use makes new developments possible and can ultimately effect an adjustment of the design. Now, more vulnerable device elements can be applied and the garden can be made greener. Such interventions were not conceivable in the previous situation of the public character.

Dutch Design Price

The design for Choorstraat- Papenhulst has won the Dutch Design Prize in the category ‘Public Space’ in 2004. A quote from the jury record: “A long wooden table, next to a church, with wooden cube-shaped seats, 12 all together, one spontaneously can imagine Da Vinci’s last Supper here, in the open air. This public space has changed into a special artefact, in which ornamental and symbolic elements have a practical function: an artificial water element, integrated in the table, serves as a wine-cooler, the latticework in the pavement is made of the same material (wood) as the table and benches and are structuring in a delicate way”.

Project: Choorstraat-Papenhulst, A courtyard for Leonardo da Vinci’s last supper
Landscape Architecture: Buro Lubbers
Location: ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands
Area: 1800 m2
Costs: € 125.000
Realization: 2003 (phase 1)
2008 (phase 2)
Photos and text: Buro Lubbers

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