Erik Dhont goes wild in ‘unstructured’ Geneva garden

This Geneva garden is a spirited balance of art, architecture and nature, courtesy of Belgian landscape architect Erik Dhont for Karin Handlbauer, founder of Galerie Mezzanin

black chalet against green garden by Erik Dhont
Erik Dhont’s landscaped garden for gallerist Karin Handlbauer is designed to complement a renovated 1920s chalet
(Image credit: Jean-Pierre Gabriel)

Designed to complement a renovated and extended 1920s timber chalet in the Swiss countryside, this lush Geneva garden is the work of Belgian landscape architect Erik Dhont. A deft hand at blending nature and architecture to produce artful, flowing, rich compositions, Brussels-based Dhont created this green design for Karin Handlbauer, founder of Galerie Mezzanin, whom he first met ‘on a sunny afternoon in Geneva at a dinner under the oak trees’. Fittingly, nature became a recurring theme in their relationship and this garden project. 

Working against a backdrop of the Frey Architectes-designed contemporary addition to the existing chalet structure, Dhont composed an arrangement that promotes ‘a new spirit of art, nature and balance’. About two thirds of the 1.86-acre garden are dedicated to greenery and ‘reforestation’, including a leafy, undulating landscape and ponds to attract wildlife. 

the swimming pool at Erik Dhont's Geneva garden

The design features a Vals stone swimming pool

(Image credit: Jean-Pierre Gabriel)

Among Handlbauer’s wishes for the garden was for it to feel ‘natural and easy-going’, and Dhont obliged. The result is a seemingly ‘unstructured’ garden that combines an organic feel with the right elements and proportions to cater to a range of functions – from swimming to entertaining and relaxing. ‘Architectural gardens are about framing the landscape, but here we worked differently. The void is the architecture, the hard surfaces we use are like spaceships floating in nature,’ says Dhont. He cites creatives such as British gardener Russell Page and Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa as sources of inspiration. 

Oak, pine, black alder, and evergreen shrubs, such as yew and holly, are key features in the garden. Accents are created by cherry, alder buckthorn, lilac, chequer and hornbeam trees. A sculpture by artist Gianni Motti sits among the plants. A swimming pool that Dhont designed together with the architects in Vals stone, next to a terrace made of local granite, completes the design, adding a cooling water element to the soft, verdant landscape.

undulating terrain at Erik Dhont designed garden

The garden is defined by an unstructured, undulating terrain

(Image credit: Jean-Pierre Gabriel)

INFORMATION

erikdhont.com (opens in new tab)

A version of this article appears in the November 2021 issue of Wallpaper* (W*271), now on newsstands – subscribe today (opens in new tab).

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).

With contributions from