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
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.
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. §