Böckel Manor Park
The history of Böckel manor can be traced back to the 14th century. The first castle, which can still be identified today from the remains of the moat, was built to the north-east of the current complex.
During the second half of the 17th century, Heinrich von Voss built the old manor house with its two characteristic corner towers in a wetland meadow. Today this area forms the main island. The corner towers and the double moats, one of which was later filled in, bear witness to the fortification of the structure.
The industrialist Leopold Koenig acquired Böckel Manor for his son Carl in 1874. It was at that time the largest landed property in the region. Carl erected a new main building in the Neorenaissance style to the south of the old manor house in 1884. This was reconstructed to such an extent in the early 20th century that today only the portico, the window reveals and the double stairs survive from the original period.
After the reconstruction and extension of the residential building, Koenig commissioned the Hamburg landscape gardener Rudolph P.C. Jürgens with the design of the garden and grounds. Hertha Koenig managed Böckel Manor for almost 50 years following the death of her father in 1927.
The outer grounds can be divided up into three sections: the driveway, the garden area which is picturesquely surrounded by the moat and the park to the east of this. The main vista extends from the stairs of the house to the ground floor and over the moat into the park. At ground level ("pleasure-ground") between the house and park, Jürgens laid out a regular network of paths to the right and left of the central axis, which leads to attractions such as the garden house, seats and linden hill.
Jürgens created both a "beautiful landscape" with interrelated views and eye-catching features as well as boundaries. Among the attractions is the greenhouse, which was erected in 1906 but has now sadly fallen into disrepair.
From the middle of the 19th century, non-native trees and shrubs plants make their appearance. As the son of a tree-nursery owner, Jürgens uses these on a large scale. For location and selection he followed the widespread practice of the time, planting broad-leaved trees and shrubs in front of conifers ("light before dark"), alternating the use of hanging and upright growth forms as well as plants with small or large, slit or smooth-edged leaves.
One long and one short path around the park provide access for the visitor.
Planted for the most part in unified manner and mostly preserved in unchanged form, the manor park stands out for the high quality of its design and authenticity.
It impresses the visitor with its more than 100-year-old trees, whose varying form and nature are only now really coming to the fore.
The dominant lines of sight can be identified if one stands on the main path running from north to south. For the most part these vistas remain confined to the park today just as, e.g. the striking corner tower where Rainer Maria Rilke lived for a time in 1917. The former network of paths, however, lies hidden beneath the grass with the exception of the main path.
Just how much attention Jürgens devoted to Böckel can be clearly seen from the secluded spots. It is thus still possible today to discover the table at the former tennis court in the south-west part of the park or the vase at the former crossing-point of the paths or even a seat at the moat. In the same way as 100 years ago, one can sit here in the half-shade in the mild air, let one's gaze wander across the moat and listen to the murmuring of the water as it flows into the Mühlenbach.
Böckel Manor's geometrical garden and landscape park with its solitary trees create a romantic atmosphere which has entranced many poets and thinkers. Today it still inspires artists such as Rirkrit Tiravania, whose spatial creation of 2002 involved a singer presented as a sculpture who stated and sang the Latin names of the trees and shrubs in the park. Plant sculptures made from text, a production by Bethan Huws, a games castle called "Amusement Romana" by Yutaka Sone and Not Vital's edible gingerbread house each showed individual ideas of utopia in the park.
It was Rainer Maria Rilke's "Sonnets to Orpheus", on the other hand, which preoccupied Welsh artist Richard Deacon and led to the creation of open and light sculptures.
And Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, who have been active here since 2003, understand better than anyone how to capture the poetry of the romantic park in their work of art "Meet the Angel" in the form of a "Jacob's Ladder". The Kabakovs feel the park to be an ideal place for realising utopian projects.
"The nicest part is usually the approach, which is exceptionally charming in Böckel in particular because of the way it crosses bridges over two water-belts, then passes through three forecourts and several gates to lead into the actual inner castle yard, which faces out onto the park, and then, again across bridges, leads into the park." Thus Rainer Maria Rilke described the old manor. It is a place of friendship which is full of memories, not a museum, not a sentimental place but rather one of quiet melancholy regarding the passage of time, which can possibly only be countered by the beauty of the architecture, the gardens, of art itself. Rilke stayed here in 1917 and it was here too that the owner, the artistically-minded and socially-committed writer Hertha Koenig, kept an open house which knew so many famous guests, among them Frank Wedekind, Salomon Friedländer, Oskar Maria Graf, Martin Heidegger and Theodor Heuss. Literature and music were cultivated in her Munich salon but also in the country. "Rilke loved our countryside with its weightiness" (Hertha Koenig) and it is this melancholy which only becomes lighter when expressed in literature as memory and yearning. "If someone dreams us together - then we meet each other" wrote the poet Marina Tsvetaeva to Rilke. These dreams and encounters, which in literature can overcome space and time, were recaptured in the readings and concerts of the "Paths through the Landscape" literature and music festival. Bruno Ganz and Eva Mattes, Erika Pluhar and Hannelore Elsner, Mathieu Carriere and Martina Gedeck read poems and letters by Rainer Maria Rilke while the Russian poets Gennadii Aygi, Olga Sedakova and Olga Martinova spoke of their literary affinity with Rilke. The Hilliard ensemble, the Ensemble Modern as well as David Geringas and Tatiana Geringas provided the readings with musical resonance.