Elfenau Landscape Park

The valuable “Elfenau” garden monument has been upgraded by means of careful renovation and modified maintenance. By opening up overgrown visual connections, planting the meadows in a theatrical manner, and renovating the fountain, we have made it possible to experience the ideas behind the landscape garden once again.

“Elfenau” is located on the southern edge of the city of Bern, in a slightly elevated position on the right bank of the River Aare. The planning of the landscape garden that still exists today goes back to the Russian Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna. She acquired the country estate in 1814, gave her property the poetic name “Elfenau,” and commissioned the garden architect Joseph Bernhard Baumann to transform the site into a landscape garden. A network of paths with pavilions, areas for sitting, and outlook points, which becomes more concentrated toward the stately manor, was laid out on the meadows, which were used for agriculture.

In historical pictures, it becomes clear that the special qualities of the site—views of the broad course of the River Aare, the nearby Gurten, Bern’s local mountain, and the magnificent mountain panorama of the Bernese High Alps—were masterfully integrated into the conception of the landscape park. The current “Elfenau” park can, however, only be experienced as a park from the edge of the site down to the River Aare. The rearward area of the park has been partially built over and is mainly perceived as an operational area and field used for agriculture.

The park maintenance plan of 2009 provides the basis for preserving this unique scenic, ecological, cultural-historical, and garden monument jewel for the future and for developing it further in a suitable way. An exact reconstruction of the historical site is neither desired nor possible from the perspective of garden monument preservation as well as to its extensive use by the population. In the future, the intentions of the Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna and her garden designer are, however, supposed to be emphasized more intensively and, where necessary, restaged. We are thus making it possible to experience the original radiance of the park anew with various measures.

Paths have once again been laid out in an enthralling way on the land used for agriculture. The pavilions, benches, and islands of flowers have not been reconstructed due to a lack of sources, but instead take up Feodorovna’s ideas in a contemporary language. The extensive rich meadows are being cultivated to a greater extent so as to visualize their flower-filled appeal. Groups of trees, solitaires, and shrubs give rhythm to the landscape space and once again provide structure for the cleared meadows and fields. The “Elfenauhölzli” is maintained as a multilayered selection forest, which thus makes it seem more mysterious.

Excavations by garden archeologists have been unable to document any traces of the waterfall envisioned in Baumann’s plan. Such a waterfall has nonetheless been created as a new element of the garden monument and a tribute to Anna Feodorovna. Thanks to these adaptations, the intellectual world of the Grand Duchess becomes comprehensible once again both spatially and ideationally. “Elfenau” remains a favorite park of the residents of Bern!

  • Immobilien Stadt Bern
  • Stadtgrün Bern
Project Data
  • Park maintenance plan 2008-2009
  • Particular Project since 2009 in stages
  • Area 40 ha

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