Slideshow of mosaic bench Groenkapel Griftpark Utrecht Holland
A 12 year project, since 1999, in the Griftpark of Utrecht, Holland. Designed and built by volunteers, I’m one of them. All materials were delivered with trucks, coming from demolished buildings. Tree trunks and big stones were delivered, plus small bags with broken tiles and croquery, contributed by residents who lived in the neighbourhood. We felt like children at the beach, with an abundance of sand to build a sandcastle!
We worked amidst huge heaps of material and the first year, no plant was growing on or in between the stones. Visitors often had no clue what we were doing, most of what we created didn’t look attractive. Only when the plants began to beautify the stone walls and those long yellow torches of flowers arrived, with numerous other “windfall” seeds turning into flowers, the Groenkapel (Greenchapel) began to show a good natured face!
The first 5 years, we volunteers were in a frenzy, diving in each container on the road. “Oh, there’s a special stone….” “Ha, here’s a broken vase, exactly the colour I need… ” or how about those favoured orange terracotta rooftiles? Such great material to work with, building stone walls, leaving space for insects, frogs and salamanders.
No doubt, the snails found their way too in between the cracks and damp places in the shadow. After a shower, a huge population of snails began to move around on the paths between the structures. It was impossible to walk without crushing some of them. Once we tried to decrease the population, collected them in bags and brought them to another part of the Griftpark.
Little did we know that they simply find their way back, despite the slowness of their journey! Fortunately we didn’t find much severe damage done by them, as you will see in the video. The place began to thrive after about 5 years and since than it’s a self-regenarating place. The shrubs and trees need pruning of course and now and than some stones are loosened by children’s feet or winterfrost. Eastern eggs are hidden each year, for the children of the neighbourhood, dressed like bunnies.
The first 5 years we had to fiercely defend the place against demolition, for the site was open to the public. We couldn’t fence it off. Visitors didn’t understand what we were doing. The design of ecological gardens with 3D stone structures was relatively new, around the turn of the millenium, at least in Utrecht. This was a large building site, of about 400 square meters in size, including the mosaic bench.
Many attempts to destroy structures and an unwelcome “spreading” of material were frustrating and a huge excersize for our patience. One of us lost his cool at some point and responded in great anger, to a couple of visitors. Parents who didn’t pay attention to their kids’ whereabouts received a severe scolding. This was reported at the reception of the visitor’s center in a dramatic manner, which required a park-guide’s diplomatic skills to quiet down.
In due time, the Groenkapel grew into its form, balancing stone and plant. Many children found their dreamspots and fantasy playground, as elves, knights, damsels in distress. Or they were running around playing tag, or hide- and-seek. With the mosaic bench finished, in 2010, we’ve completed a beautiful oasis. A refuge for visitors, some of them tired citizens coming from far, finding a bit of quietude, dreamily licking their icecream. In the quiet of the night, hedgehogs are shuffling about and nowadays, the peacock family finds its resting place in it too. The cry of the male reaches very far, I could hear it in my home, at night, about half a mile on distance of the Griftpark.