It’s easy to recognise the work of renowned Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. He favours herbaceous rather than woody plants, allowing them to ebb and flow across a continuous landscape without imposing a linear structure. He creates dreamy hazes of vegetation, not optimised for a particular vantage point but instead dazzling from many angles. And rather than digging up wilted plants and replacing them with fresh ones, Oudolf selects species that have a sculptural quality beyond their flowering season, and embraces the beauty of decay.

The result – whether at New York’s High Line or in the meadows surrounding Copenhagen’s Noma – appears free of human intervention, like a particularly exquisite patch of wilderness transported to our urban domain. 

Behind this impression of spontaneity lies meticulous planning, expert planting and many decades of hands-on experience. Earlier this summer, Wallpaper* presented an exclusive first look at the new Oudolf Garten at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany – situated around Herzog & de Meuron’s VitraHaus and a geodesic dome by R Buckminster Fuller. The feature also appears in the August issue of our magazine, dedicated to design for a better world.

Feature in Wallpaper* August 2021 issue on Piet Oudolf’s garden for Vitra HQ in Weil am Rhein, Germany
As featured in the August 2021 issue of Wallpaper*, Piet Oudolf’s garden for the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, photographed in May 2021 just as it began to bloom

Interviewing Oudolf over video call, Wallpaper* contributing editor Tilly Macalister-Smith discovered the precise steps that he and his collaborators have taken to achieve a ‘characteristically accidental’ garden: ‘He works by first of all sketching his designs on drafting paper, much like an architect, and will colour code the plants according to their flowering schedule or their physical properties. Next, he draws a grid over the design, which will later be marked out on the ground using string, to create a guide that allows him to transfer the designs on paper to the soil, one square at a time.’

Supplementing our exclusive imagery – shot in May just as the garden was beginning to bloom – are process images that show how Oudolf’s design plays out across the four seasons, demonstrating the garden’s all-season allure as well as the effort involved in its creation.

A further behind-the-scenes element comes in the form of our August issue’s limited-edition cover, which shows a planting plan sketched by Oudolf. Drawn free hand, with organically shaped flower beds shaded in different colours, and the names of some species crossed out and replaced as Oudolf finessed his design, the sketch offers a rare, evocative glimpse into the inner workings of a fertile mind. 

Piet Oudolf’s limited edition cover artwork for Wallpaper* August 2021 issue
Oudolf’s limited-edition cover artwork for Wallpaper’s August 2021 issue

The garden at Vitra is one of three major projects by Oudolf to complete this summer: there’s also a garden at the new Hauser & Wirth art centre in Menorca, surrounding a sensitively restored 18th-century naval hospital on Illa del Rei; and a public garden in Belle Isle, Detroit, adjacent the neo-gothic Nancy Brown Peace Carillon.

Read more about the Oudolf Garten, and the designer’s vision of ‘gardens for everyone’, in our August issue – now on newsstands and available to download.