H.C. Andersen’s Garden, which spreads over 7,000 square meters in the middle of the city, has given Odense an atmospheric oasis that blends reality with fantasy and offers countless captivating experiences for visitors.
Wandering, exploring, and sensing are fundamental fairy-tale themes in HC Andersen’s work. These themes are reflected in the spatial concept of the museum and garden, created in his honour. The borders are blurred to reflect the constant shift between reality and fantasy in his fairy-tale universe.
Inspired by the fairy-tale universe of H. C. Andersen, the project brings together the house of H. C. Andersen and the children’s culture house, Fyrtøjet (Tinderbox), into one remarkably expanded attraction and enriches them with a magical garden. The building spans over 5600 m2, of which two-thirds are placed below ground level, allowing for as much garden space as possible in the centre of Odense.
The project is part of the sizable transformation of the city centre of Odense, mainly based on the closing of Thomas B. Thriges Gade and reuniting the old medieval city centre. The street, which used to cut through the city, is part of the 9000 m2 project area. Further to this, the garden, with its five entrances plus a sixth in a sunken garden from the parking facility, is not just for museum visitors but open to everyone. The master plan for the fairy-tale house and garden will create a large, public garden space that merges with the city around it and becomes an integrated part of the city’s flow. This concept activates street life and provides a magical atmosphere. The narrow, historical streets surrounding the Andersen birthplace and the winding paths leading through the garden are expansions of the museum.
Walking from smaller secluded spaces through openings and spatial changes, the museum visitor experiences a journey in constant transformation. Shifts in scale and colour, varying types of nature with symbolic characteristics and experiences of water appeal to the imagination. The garden and the museum are merged through views and elements directly linking indoors and outdoors.
Our garden doesn’t aim to tell the same story as The Ugly Duckling or Thumbelina. Instead, it lets you experience nature as perceived by H.C. Andersen – as a source of inspiration that sets the imagination free, but at the same time, is unpredictable and wild. The natural order constantly changes with seasonal transformations and as life and decay replace one another. This conflict between harmony and chaos is present in the garden.
In the garden, walls are replaced by hedges that mimic the scale of the indoor spaces, blurring the border between garden and museum and allowing the wanderer to seep in and out of reality and fantasy, as the characters of HC Andersen do.
The garden stimulates the senses and tickles the imagination. Moreover, hedges are a classic garden element that marks out spaces with precise shapes. Here, they are exaggerated, deformed, and stretched to encircle HC Andersen’s stories’ complex and ambiguous worlds. The hedges are designed with concave arches that match the scale of the cylindrical museum buildings and surrounding structures. As such, the hedges are only 1.20 metres tall in the old part of town, where the buildings are low and half-timbered, while they reach a height of six meters in the newer, taller buildings area.
The hedges encircling the garden and facing the city are hornbeam, which become transparent in winter. Standing at the heart of the garden are beech hedges. Like the evergreen yew hedge, it forms a long, curved shape, mirroring the cylindrical structures and ensuring an alternating view all year round.
In addition, movement is necessary to experience the shifts in the atmosphere as the compositions of plants and scale change from space to space. Plants are also essential elements in the garden by evoking a certain atmosphere with their colours, textures, smells, and shapes. Seasonal changes provide a constant sense of transition in varying colours, transparencies, and materiality.
One of the biggest challenges was to plan the vegetation planting on top of the roof. A total of 1,222 hedge plants of three different species were quickly planted, in addition to 11,000 perennials, 28,000 bulbs and 38 large trees.
As you enter the garden at H.C. Andersen’s House in Odense, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful array of perennials, including Catmint, Mexican feather grass, Russian sage, and Culver’s root. These ground-covering plants are thick and well-maintained, appearing wild and neatly arranged. They are a perfect introduction to the enchanting fairy-tale garden that lies ahead, nestled amidst the city’s buildings. Silver maple and Sweet gum trees will dress the autumn garden in warm, golden colours, just as a ginkgo tree will stand sculpturally with its unique leaves and yellow splendour, recalling the old apothecary garden Lotze’s have, where a ginkgo tree once stood. One also finds Scots pine and fir trees from Finland, which fit well in the Dark Garden with their wild, unruly, and quirky expression. In the bright garden, we find Magnolia and ornamental cherry trees, which bloom as late as October. In the Giant Garden stands Catalpa, a deciduous tree and a multi-stemmed Empress tree, wider than it is tall and fittingly has enormous leaves.
The fairy tales of H.C. Andersen have inspired the new garden created in the centre of Odense. The landscape continues as an extension of the museum, connects with the city space, and creates a sense of place. Themes in H.C. Andersen’s work are reflected in the planting strategy, and the atmosphere in the garden today is one of magic, mystery and fantasy.
Landscape Architecture: MASU Planning
Architecture offices involved in the design: Kengo Kuma & Associates (main consultant), Cornelius+Vöge Architects, C+V Architects, Søren Jensen Engineers, Jesper Kongshaug (light design)
Location: H.C. Andersen Haven 1 · DK-5000. Odense C
Design year: 2016
Year Completed: 2022