Sun + Shade

City Hall Garden of Leiden

The City Hall of Leiden has recently been renovated. With our design for the courtyard we have transformed the former enclosed space into an outdoor courtyard garden by removing the atrium roof. Consequently, in the newly renovated courtyard of the City Hall of Leiden, sun, shade, water, humans and animals provide a diverse, truly green interpretation of a historically and ecologically relevant courtyard.


In the near future, the monumental city hall of Leiden will be made suitable for the new, flexible way of working of the municipal organization. The adjustments will strengthen the existing monumental qualities of the city hall and it can be used sustainably for housing the municipal organization.


The courtyard in the city hall has a central position in the building. Due to the current roof, it is now an atrium with only a few elements that offer the illusion of a green interior. The wish for a real green courtyard in the town hall appears to be strong among the users and it is a major quality boost for the entire building.

Current situation courtyard city hall
Current situation courtyard city hall

In the original design by architect C.J. Blauw the town hall embraces the courtyard as an enclosed outdoor space. In the definitive design, this will be the case in the near future again. The removal of the atrium roof brings back the direct visual connection with the bell tower and offers the possibility of a real green courtyard, in which the adjacent balconies can play a role in terms of planting and visibility. The nice view from the offices on the courtyard is a strong experience value for the building and its users and gives us the assignment to design a beautiful year-round image.

Cross section of the inner garden from the competition


We change the courtyard into a Hortus Conclusus, but with a twist. The usual square as a walkabout is not placed around the garden, but in the middle of the space. This makes the experience of the garden more active and rich instead of just looking onto it the visitor really enters the garden. In addition, each room has a uniquely framed glimpse of the diversity of design in the garden.


The surprising inner garden becomes an attraction for garden lovers, with a link to the green courtyards in the city center, the Singelpark and the Hortus Botanicus. The courtyard contains references to the botanical research of Boerhaave and the role of natural and cultural history in the city. The city hall thus forms a link in a visit to Leiden as a city of discoveries.


Plan map Hof van Leiden


The spectacularly blooming Tulip tree will be at the heart of the garden. This is the tree that Boerhaave planted in the Hortus Botanicus and on the country estate ‘Oud Poelgeest’, and therefore has a symbolic value for the city. The permanent planting consists of a mix of native and exotic species for a year-round beautiful image.



The pavement builds on the bluestone that can be found in and around the city hall, but with a rough and a smooth side. The square is a linear, continuous and flat paved path that runs through the garden as a subtle ordering structure. The entrance of the city foyer and a terrace are laid with open pavement, through which the greenery finds its way.


To provide a sustainable supply of moisture to the garden and the balconies, rainwater from the roofs around the inner garden is led through 'polder roofs' on the balconies to a rainwater tank in the garden. The tank is connected to an irrigation system, so that the garden can still be irrigated in dry days.

Irrigation system with polder roofs
Position of the trough in the court


Even when there is a meeting in the city hall in the evening, the garden will play a role in the dark. Various subtle lights are placed along the path to accompany the walk through the garden. A few uplights are placed near some shrubs, so that the garden can be experienced in the dark.


A number of chairs are added to the courtyard that are allowed to roam the garden. This way guests and employees can sit at their favorite spot. Because of their color, the chairs almost fall away against the background of the plants and are an enrichment of the image of the garden.


To make the garden interesting for fauna, various objects are added. For example ‘bee poles’, roof tiles and dead wood are placed that can accommodate a wide variety of wild bees and insects. Water is also important, as a drinking and foraging place.

In 2017 we contributed to the winning design by Winhov architects and Studio Linse in a competition for the renovation and the connection of the city hall with the city. The importance of the courtyard as a green space in the building and for the rest of the city has already been established in this preliminary design.


The definitive design of the garden in the courtyard is an integral part of the total renovation of the city hall and is therefore the continuation of the vision as developed during the competition phase of ‘Hof van Leiden’. H+N+S Landscape Architects worked together with Rupert Muldoon and SmitsRinsma for this design.


Former employee Arjen Meeuwsen.