Cloister Garden

Michael van Gessel: Dordrecht’s Hof (court) is the place where representatives of Dutch cities met secretly in 1572 in a bid to secede from the Spanish empire to which they then belonged. The Hof is therefore often regarded as the political cradle of the Netherlands. As part of a plan to revamp the Court Quarter as a cultural area, the municipality decided to refurbish the Cloister Garden adjoining the Hof, which had fallen into disrepair. The plan’s main goal was to give the historic site the elegant look it deserved, and to make this space a quiet, relaxing haven.

This required, above all, turning the courtyard’s separate compartments into a single space with clear entrances and unobstructed views. A further aim in designing the layout along these lines was to discourage drunks and drug addicts from hanging about. The municipal plan called for a “green courtyard” with a simple layout, high-quality materials and meticulous detailing. To frame the courtyard as a whole, the raised lawn’s outer edges run roughly along the perimeter, leaving a wide path in between for people to walk around its outer edge. The lawn seems to have been ripped apart in two halves, opening up an irregular space in between, where people can walk and sit under several existing large trees. One half of the lawn has been slightly rotated with respect to the other half to align the two halves with the layout of the surrounding buildings. Stone slabs, 150 centimeters wide, have been placed along the edges of the ostensible tear, accentuating the divergence between the two halves and providing space to sit. Vertical sheets of corten steel frame the rest of the lawn.

The wide path that runs between the raised lawn and the perimeter, which is mainly formed by backyard fences, has been paved but otherwise left open. The only elements that were added along the path are a number of shrubs—magnolias, dogwoods, hawthorns and shadbushes—to connect the public lawn with the more private atmosphere of the gardens surrounding it. The entire Cloister Garden is lit fairly evenly by a small number of unpretentious eight-metre-high poles fitted with floodlights.

Landscape Architecture: Michael van Gessel
Location: Kloostertuin / Dordrecht / The Netherlands
Design & construction: 2006 – 2008
Client: Municipality of Dordrecht
In collaboration with Caspar Slijpen (landscape architect) and Francine van Kempen (technician)
Photos: Emilio Troncoso
Text: Michael van Gessel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Metalco ArchInteligence

New in Product Library

Visit Product Library
List Your Products


  • Landezine Newsletter

    Best of Landscape Architecture in Your Mailbox
    Twice per month!

    Keep in touch!

    About Us / Contact
    Send us your project!
    Landezine LIVE
    LILA - Landezine International Landscape Award

    Privacy Policy
    Terms and Conditions

    © 2009 – 2023 Landezine
    +386 40 81 40 04
    info (at)

    All rights reserved. All photos, plans and renders of projects on Landezine are property of a photographer or landscape architects mentioned within a specific project presentation.
    Watch Landezine LIVE Lectures
    See LILA - Landezine International Landscape Award Winners