Michael van Gessel: This stronghold overlooking the Lower Rhine dates from the Merovingian Period (481–751), when this Frankish dynasty ruled France. In the 17th century, on a clearing in the woods, a King’s Table was erected, surrounded by twelve linden trees, commemorating a visit by the Winter King of Bohemia. The Second World War left its mark with a cemetery for fallen soldiers of the Dutch Army who fought the German invasion here in a last stand against overwhelming odds. The place is rife with history. Growing interest in the archeological past of the Dutch landscape called for a recuperation plan of these historical remains. The provincial foundation that manages parts of the local landscape that are of special interest was the client. The brief boiled down to: make nature and man-made history visible again.
Almost nothing was invented, the result is predominantly a resurrection of what was already there. This attitude pays homage to the 18th century English author and landscape architect Joseph Spence: ‘What is, is the great guide as to what ought to be.’
Clearing out the overgrown stretch of woodland at the edge of the steep incline restored the view of the surrounding landscape and the ancient ring wall defending the stronghold. Oaks and other deciduous trees reemerged and recaptured the space they deserve in a field of royal ferns.
The path, more visible now, crosses the ring wall at two spots: an incision through the rampart, that is also used for maintenance and a footpath over it. The notch is dramatized by lining it with Corten steel plates, showing the exact cross section of the wall. A flight of steel stairs slightly raised over the slope, redefines the footpath.
Standing up, an active view of the Rhine river landscape below can de enjoyed from the panorama platform that hovers over the edge of the plateau.
To take in a more restful contemplation of the reclaimed river delta, a curvilinear bench is provided. Situated in the axis of the oval-shaped clearing, the seat connects the plateau with the landscape below.
Landscape Architecture: Michael van Gessel
Location: Grebbeberg / Rhenen / Netherlands
Client: Stichting Het Utrechts Landschap in collaboration with Wim Wijsman