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This is a very quiet, rustic neighbourhood. Because the poplars had to be chopped down, one of the residents suggested that an artist be brought in to do something with the square so that they didn’t have to look at a desolate wasteland for three years. The square functioned as a meeting place in which dog-lovers (amongst others) would meet up and chat.

Buckens on the design: I quickly drew up a plan with various contour lines, directed at the central part with an eye-catcher: a giant forest of wooden tulips. The contour lines provide for an interesting visual effect anyway. This is a low-threshold neighbourhood, so you mustn’t come and preach the cultural revolution here. If you want to reach the residents, you have to make it light and playful, otherwise you only create resistance. What immediately struck me was that the people don’t have front gardens here, and that the River Meuse flows just behind the dyke that their houses look out onto. This is how I came up with the idea for Tuin aan de Maas (Garden at the Meuse, 2009) – a garden that’s for everyone.

THRONES FOR A WORKING-CLASS NEIGHBOURHOOD The garden consists of three layers of depth that unfold along the axis of sight: the first consists of a circle of wooden thrones, lit by an existing streetlamp. The powerful primeval chairs were carved from the off-cuts of the chopped poplars. After it became apparent that people liked the chairs, Buckens used sketches to show the residents what else he had in mind for the square:

You need sketches to convince the politicians (the municipal executive) and the residents. I like to serve other people with my art, and like to work as directly and pragmatically as possible. I first read and try to get under the skin of a place, its history. After that, I come to establish the diagnosis, if you like, of the space. As an artist, you are actually coming to solve a spatial problem in the public space. The practical and the social feasibility play a big role in this. The physical and the social space need to be able to co-exist effortlessly in my sculptures. The socially-oriented first move with these chairs was a good one, looking back. It broke the ice in this quite closed, isolated neighbourhood. Children sit on them, and they have made it a kind of meeting place.


The second layer is formed by a row of potted plants, varying in height, from stag-horn to sansevieria. Parts of the imaginative plants are made in the studio, while the rest are carved out of the tree stumps while standing on scaffolding using chainsaws. The plants each get a different colour, varying from pale green to fluorescent yellow, depending on their position. Buckens says of these ‘plants’:

A plant is a fairly neutral subject, so it goes well with this neighbourhood. What I personally find

Garden at the Meuse - Winterview (2009) Detailed painted wood

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