The Green Cathedral

After being intrigued by Klaa5's photos of De Realiteit Experimental Housing in Almere, Netherlands, and then finding more information, including an aerial, at Architecture Guide Nederland, I went Google sightseeing to find the small cluster of houses. But before I could find it I "flew" over this somewhat more intriguing solid/void representation of a church in trees:

[Aerial of the Green Cathedral | Google Maps source]

De Groene Kathedraal (The Green Cathedral), at the bottom of the aerial, is a full-size copy of Reims Cathedral by artist Marinus Boezem that replaces stone and glass with poplar trees and sky. About 20 years after it was started the artwork was "completed" in 1996, yet it is expected to reach its full height in 2015. The duplicate footprint to the north is a clearing in beech trees that follows the original by about a decade, so it is not as tall as the first.
[Reims Cathedral floor plan | image source]

The trees follow the columns and buttresses of the plan. Stone strips laid in the glass (faintly visible in the aerial) further mimic the groin vaults, inverting the church so that ground becomes roof.

[L: Reims Cathedral; R: Green Cathedral | image sources: left and right]

While I like land art in general, I'm not usually inclined toward art that mimics in this regard. But the simplification of the space to one repeated element and the opening of the sky above, not to mention the metaphor of a natural cathedral, make this an appealing artwork. In being open to the sky the Green Cathedral reminds me of San Galgano Abbey in Italy and Tinturn Abbey in Wales, two Gothic ruins sans roofs. I'd love to visit Almere to sense the space of the artwork (I haven't been to Reims yet either, for that matter), but for now the above photo will have to do.


  1. Something similar can be seen in Ghent, Belgium. The east side of the city was once dominated by an abbey. This abbey was destroyed in the 16th century and through time, most traces of its church had faded. When the city upgraded the area a couple of years ago, it built a park on the site, and made a reconstruction of the long-lost church with poplar trees.

    The project is a lot younger than the Dutch work of art, so it's not as impressive yet. It's very visible in Google Maps though: Click!

  2. Yes, Amaury, quite similar. I like the idea of having this sort of thing in the city rather than removed from it. I can imagine, at least in some years when the trees have matured, that the contrast between it and the buildings will be strong.

  3. La nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
    Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
    L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
    Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

    (Charles baudelaire)

  4. Thanks for the inspiration America - about a forest just few kilometers from my house :-)


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