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Landscaping Neumünster
Renovation. Neumünster Abbey, Luxembourg.
Contracting authority: Ministry of Public Works for the State of Luxembourg
Architect for the renovation of the building: J. Ewert. Landscape architects: Digitale (Agnes Daval, Artist specialising in the urban environment and Landscaper, Julie Courcelle, assistant, Grégoire Zabé, assistant)

A contemporary garden in a medieval abbey.

In the Grund district at the heart of the old city of Luxembourg the old Abbey of Neumünster, a UNESCO world heritage site, is found. The former Abbey built in the 17th and 18th centuries, the military hospital established in the 19th century and the workshop built in the 20th century served as a prison until the middle of the eighties. In 1993, the Luxembourg authorities decided to set up a Cultural Meeting Place on the site.

An extensive programme of restoration and rejuvenation was carried out, notably under the leadership of the architect J. Ewert, and made it possible to respect the historic character of the buildings while installing the most up-to-date facilities.

It remained to be seen how the green spaces were going to be laid out. The institution was receptive to present-day creative trends and entrusted the layout of the cloister garden to a contemporary artist, a specialist in urban environment and landscaper Agnes Daval.

At the time when the Abbey was inhabited by monks, the cloister was not only a garden but also a place of burial, prayer and contemplation. Today, it becomes a distinguishing symbol of the new cultural meeting place.
The garden consists of bluestone marquetry and “herb garden benches". These benches are made up of large bluestone blocks rising from the ground to different heights. These stone benches which evoke memories of the garden benches of the 16th century, stand in monumental opposition to the rounded form of the arches and semicircular widows of the Abbey.
This imposing work is also full of life, thanks to the ever-changing presence of the plants. Agnes Daval has mixed wild flowers and fruit with aromatic herbs, in the spirit of the flowered lawns of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
The blend of small stones, washed up pebbles and large bluestone blocks also gives life to the garden, as well as the subtle interplay of the perspectives created by the unevenness of the ground and the different levels of the benches. The work offers different aspects to the carefree walker as he strolls haphazardly through the garden where his eye meets lines drawn on the ground or cut in the stone.
This arrangement gives the garden a multitude of faces and possible circuits, in spite of its modest size. This apparently random organisation offers it the opportunity to take a mental leap beyond the walls of the alleyway.

Agnes Daval. Landscaper.
"I chose blue stone for mechanical and aesthetic reasons: it is a very hard stone that can be worked to fine thickness and therefore suitable for the lightness of the project. Furthermore, its colour contrasts with the walls of the covered walk of the cloister and evokes the colour of the roofing slates. Blue stone offers a great range of finishes and contrasts from the same material. I also found that the workforce of Les Carrières de la Pierre Bleue Belge were readily available and provided a high quality of technical advice."    

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