Nouvelle Heloïse’s Garden

Céligny (Switzerland)

The Challenge

Lionel’s intervention in the garden of this 18th century mansion near Geneva has a rather dramatic starting point. The old catalpa on the terrace, whose shadow was sheltering al-fresco family lunches, fell after a storm last December. How to quickly recover a shaded recreation area? How to integrate modern uses of garden – outdoors dining, sun bathing – within the architectural and historical context of this place?

The Solution

Rather unexpectedly, Lionel first proposal was to completely redesign the entrance courtyard. The client was so taken by the idea that these works were conducted first. In this area, Lionel aims at simplifying the design and limiting himself to the traditional elements of a courtyard: gravel and grass areas, absence of flowers and ornaments. The new design rebalances the proportion of the courtyard and establishes a clear link between the architecture of the house and the mall of tulip trees at the back by underlining the main composition axis. As the only concession to the lack of ornament, Lionel edges the grass beds with a traditional French garden pattern.

On the terrace of the castle, Lionel introduces secondary axis derived from architectural elements and delimits an outdoor room, near the kitchen, shaded by four mulberry trees. Structural elements combine dark and evergreen yew contrasting with hornbeam. The latter, with its changing color from light green, to green, yellow and bronze, underlines the passing of seasons.

The new garden evokes traditional French gardens by its formal composition. It is neither a recreation nor a pastiche. It is a real contemporary creation, which respects the genius loci and integrates modern uses of a garden.