Walking between these stone and concrete structures feels like you are exploring the ruins of an ancient civilization. Scattered between the trees are endless paths, nooks, and crannies to get lost in. In reality, however, the “overgrownness” of the structures is highly intentional, and part of its design.
In the 1970s, artist Louis le Roy (1924-2012) obtained an empty piece of land and began building what is now known as the Ecokathedraal (”eco cathedral”) near the town of Mildam, Netherlands. He made an arrangement with the municipality that leftover bricks and debris from construction projects would be brought to him. Without using machinery or cement, he slowly erected structures that would collectively make up his “eco-tectural” artwork.
Le Roy’s core belief was that when humans and nature work together, a high level of natural complexity can be achieved. His refusal to use cement plays an important part in this because cracks between the stones become places where plants and insects can live. Le Roy worked without a building plan, instead using whatever resources were available to him to create a more organic and unpredictable layout.
Today, the Ecokathedraal is publicly accessible and covers about two hectares. Following his passing in 2012, Le Roy’s work has been taken over by volunteers, who continue to expand upon the area.
The Ecokathedraal is not a finished project: It was Le Roy’s intention that the man-made structures and nature in the area have hundreds of years to grow in complexity. In this way, while the Ecokathedraal is a collaboration between humans and nature, its third—and arguably most important—contributor, is time.
Know Before You Go
Visitors can park 500 meters away at restaurant Hof van Schoterland. While the area is freely accessible, the foundation that manages the eco cathedral emphasizes that it is not an attraction, but an active working site. Climbing on the structures is not permitted, and there are no toilets or other facilities on site.