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In recent years the Stadspark (designed in 1917) in Schoonhoven has been renovated. A central feature in the park is a path crossed by a small bridge: the underpass. This feature is created by the architect of the park, Leonard A. Springer (1855-1940). The local ground levels, though untypically undulated because the park was laid out on the former bulwarks of the town, did not make this crossing necessary.

The underpass in Stadspark Schoonhoven (photo HvdE).

So we’re talking about a deliberate design decision by Springer. And a successful one at that: this bridge alone makes it worthwhile to make a circular walk through the rectilinear and narrow Stadspark. It is no secret that Springer did not invent this feature. The most famous example in The Netherlands is the 18th century large Swiss bridge at Elswout, but there are more.

Reason for this post is that a less known example must have directly influenced Springer, even before his long career took off. It is not mentioned in the booklet that was published on the occasion of the reopening of the renovated Stadspark.1 I’m talking about a bridge in the garden of Frankendael, in Springer’s hometown Amsterdam.

Source: Wageninger URBetween 1867 and 1882 Frankendael was in use as a horticultural school, lead by the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Tuinbouw Maatschappij “Linnaeus”. Leonard Springer attended this school between 1871 and 1874. In 1886 – Springer had already established himself as a successful beginning landscape architect and the school had ceased to exist – Springer drew a map of the garden based on measurements done by students in 1873.
On that map (image detail courtesy of Wageningen UR, location indicated by the red circle -HvdE) the bridge can be seen passing over the water and a path running alongside each other. To my knowledge no illustrations of this feature exist, so we’ll need the example from Elswout below as reference.

Springer lived with and around this bridge and underpass for a few years, so it is no surprise that it pops up in his oeuvre in a later stage. But even then he adapted the theme to local circumstances (no waterway under the bridge) and combined it with a rock garden – which was very fashionable at the time.

Thus the classic underpass in the hands of Springer underwent a small scale metamorphosis, making it suitable for both location and taste-of-the-day.
Glad to see the work of a true artist in a lovingly renovated form again.

  1. WErkgroep SPringerpark, Het Stadspark in Schoonhoven (Schoonhoven 2008). Constance Moes briefly mentions the existence of this that bridge in the monography of Springer, but does not make the connection with later occurances of such underpasses in his later work; in: Constance D.H. Moes, L.A. Springer, Tuinarchitect, Dendroloog (1855-1940) (Rotterdam 2002), p94, note 25: “In de tuin waren elementen van de landschappelijke aanleg uit het begin van de negentiende eeuw intact, zoals de vijver met eiland en de hoge Zwitserse brug.” [back]

A recently renovated underpass by architect Leonard Springer in Schoonhoven brings to mind an often forgotten similar bridge and underpass at the school where the architect was trained some 45 years earlier: Frankendael in Amsterdam.

One Response to “Leonard Springer and the underpass”

  1. on 21 Oct 2010 at 9:39 pmHvdE

    Spotted another Springer underpass today, a more traditional example this time. This one is known at Wageningen UR as 01.834.01, is part of the Springer collection, and is probably a design made for study purposes. Alas, I do not have an image of this design. I’ll try to describe it.

    In this traditional example the lower path leads along the water, just above water level. On the other side of the path the bank gradually gets higher, resulting in a steep slope leading to the top of the bank. From there the bridge crosses, arching over the bank, the path and the water to the other bank: an island.
    On that island, a small building awaits the pedestrian crossing the bridge. That building is also visible from the lower path at the other side of the water. Springer found a very clever way to induce people to leave the lower path as soon as possible to get on the bridge to reach that building on the other side.
    In this example the road towards the bridge from that point is long and one could easily get diverted away from the bridge.

    It is a briliant example of garden architecture, using the power of seduction to lead visitors through the garden by offering them diverse views that keep them going.
    Love this, hope to be able to add an image soon.

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