Building Architecture into Landscape: Bold Designs for Natural Beauty

Friday, January 31st • 2 pm | A lecture by Martin Wirtz

Second generation landscape architect Martin Wirtz shares family history and firm philosophy in exploring the inspiration for balancing classic formality with contemporary garden style. Whether designing gardens for public spaces, corporate headquarters, museums, royal families, or private clients, the Wirtz name is synonymous with bold gestures, sculptural hedges, and unexpected plant selection. Each design is one of a kind yet recognizable with iconic Wirtz details. Martin’s father, the late Jacques Wirtz, founded Wirtz International and was compared to André le Nôtre, the designer of the gardens of Versailles. For the past 25 years, Martin, and brother Peter, have led Wirtz International and received worldwide acclaim for projects completed in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Martin Wirtz

Martin Wirtz is an acclaimed Belgian landscape architect who studied Landscape Architecture at University Ghent and pursued farming before joining the family firm in 1986. Martin, along with his brother Peter Wirtz and late father Jacques Wirtz, built the landscape architecture firm Wirtz International, which is the largest of its kind in Belgium. The firm has designed gardens for private residences, large estates, public parks, museums, college campuses and corporate headquarters. Founder Jacques Wirtz has been compared to Andre Le Nôtre, the French landscape architect who designed the gardens of Versailles. Martin and Peter Wirtz have led Wirtz International for the last 25 years.

While there is no typical Wirtz garden, the firm’s design will include bold geometry, tamed nature and unapologetic structure. Wirtz International’s philosophy is based on the classical elements of formal garden design with an intersection of modern sculpture-like treatment of hedges. The use of clipped hedges is an iconic aspect of the Wirtz style. Most importantly, every Wirtz garden invokes beauty in all four seasons as Jacques Wirtz carefully recognized, “A garden that is not beautiful in winter is not a beautiful garden.”

Wirtz International has impacted landscape design around the world. Notably, the firm redesigned the Carrousel Garden in Paris, which links the Louvre to the Tuileries and the gardens of the Élysée Palace, the resident of the French president. Raf Simons, designer for Christian Dior, commissioned the Wirtz brothers to design a catwalk for the Haute Couture Fashion Show Spring-Summer 2013, where the models walked between the trees and under the canopies forming sculptured stems with the creation. With the sober plant choice, the models, flowing with beautiful gowns, appeared as flowers in the garden. 

In the UK, the Wirtz family reimagined the gardens of the 11th century Alnwick Castle for the 12th Duchess of Northumberland. The original gardens, partly designed by Capability Brown, had been among the greatest in England but fell into disrepair after World War II. The Duchess wanted to create a modern garden open to visitors. The new garden includes a labyrinth with 500 bamboo plants, a rose garden with 3,000 roses in 180 varieties, a serpent garden with yew hedges and eight steel water sculptures, a soaring water cascade, a poison garden with deadly plants and a treehouse built among seventeen lime trees.   

In addition to public spaces around the world, Wirtz has designed private gardens in Europe, California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Chicago, Seattle and Kansas. While noteworthy names include Valentino, Catherine Deneuve, the Belgian royal family and some Forbes lists members, the stunning three-book volume cataloguing the Wirtz gardens uses numbers to identify the gardens rather than reveal the private owner. The Wirtz name is synonymous with heightened aesthetic and perfect composition.


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