Canal House Hotel
We were so lucky to be given this garden to work on, and being half Dutch Holland is a home from home for me. It was also a chance to improve my somewhat rusty Dutch speaking!
The brief was to design and manage the building of a large garden for a new hotel being made from two adjoining 17th century canal houses on the glitteringly beautiful Keizersgracht in central Amsterdam. The two gardens had until recently been part covered by a temporary building. The historic canal district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so all works on the garden were extremely tightly regulated.
All the materials, including the new semi-mature trees, paving slabs and soil had to be hoisted over the 6 storey building with a specialist crane, this involved closing the road each time this was done. We found contractors and negotiated and oversaw their work to completion, and then the ongoing maintenance of the garden.
The hotel was designed to resemble a traditional canal house with a 21st century interpretation, using contrasts of dark and light. We designed the garden to reflect this concept and, as many rooms look down into the garden, we chose a geometric layout that is attractive and inviting when seen from above. We used reclaimed 18th century bricks, and magnificent new slabs of stone to match the existing Belgium bluestone paving. The terraces and planting were set out in crisp patterns and with shallow inky black water tanks, filled with moving water to add an air of mystery and surprise. Lighting was arranged so that it could be adjusted to accommodate the different uses the garden is put to during the year.
We know that winters can seem long in Holland and that it can often be cold and dark, so we planted the garden with a high proportion of evergreens to give a lush and leafy feel all year.
The clipped platforms of box continue the geometric feel and frame the water tanks. The existing very big and tall trees were removed and replaced with more in-scale, but still quite large, berried hollies, acers and Cornus kousa varieties, all field grown in Holland.