South of Zwolle lies the historic and relatively unknown Windesheim estate. At the back of the site the remains of a garden from the 18th century, the estate’s earliest period, have been wonderfully preserved. The garden’s 18th century water and path structure formed the basis for its renewal.

Windesheim, a historic country seat of the same name located in the heart of the estate, did not survive the Second World War and post-war period unscathed. The tide turned a few years ago after a prolonged period of neglect and decay and now investments have been made in the park once again.

H+N+S was commissioned by the Landgoed Windesheim Foundation to draw up a renewal plan for the 18th century heart of the estate. The historic garden and original park layout is protected as a national monument, therefore H+N+S drew up a plan which balances the historical quality of the site with its future function. Since the site was limited in its accessibility and difficult to pass through, the aim of the renewal plan was twofold. First, to (sustainably) renovate the country seat and second, to make the area more interesting for the public by making the park more accessible and attractive.

Extensive historical research was carried out into the original plan of the park and its subsequent developments. Various layers in time were distinguished, each with their own characteristics. The original design principles (from the designers Husley and Springer) were indicated on each layer, showing which traces of the original design can still be found. This made it possible to draw up a historically sound yet contemporary design vocabulary that formed the basis for the renewal plan. There was no literal reconstruction, however the new interventions are anchored strongly in the park’s history and heritage.

The case of the new park bridges provides an example of this approach. The location of the original bridges is known, along with a hand sketch by Husley showing a design for one of them. However, it is unknown whether this bridge was built and whether the other bridges also looked like this, or completely different. Therefore, while the location of each of the new bridges matches the position of those in the original plan, a new design was developed for each. Each bridge is related to each other however each is unique, with high and low versions. A matching country fence was also designed.

The new park bridges on the Windesheim estate opened in the summer of 2021. Their design is by NEXT architects in collaboration with H+N+S. Made from Corten steel the bridges will weather over time, changing colour from steel, to fire-red and eventually to very dark brown. Initially contrasted and complemented by the colours of the forest, eventually the bridges will be visually absorbed by them. The white handrail provides a nice accent to an otherwise subtle, natural finish. Seating areas have been incorporated into some of bridges. In the tradition of the romantic park design by Jacob Otten Husley, the new bridges add an additional layer of ‘garden cieraeden’ to the estate.

As a result of these interventions, a walk across this country estate is enriched with new visual highlights. Seating areas have been incorporated on some bridges. The bridges are made of Corten steel: in the coming period the bridges will change color from steel to fire red and eventually they will become very dark brown, which makes them stand out nicely in the forest, but eventually become more and more absorbed in it. The white handrail provides a nice accent to the otherwise very calm, natural finish.

Architecture offices involved in the design: NEXT Architects

Location: Windesheimerweg 2, 8015 PR Zwolle, the Netherlands

Design year: 2019/2020

Year Completed: 2021


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