This is Hofwijck, the bijou residence of the foremost scientist of his age, Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695). He was a man of ideas, testing these ideas himself with instruments he himself designed and built. Huygens wasn’t only a scientist but also a poet, a composer and an art lover – a truly gifted guy.

The garden of the Hofwijck estate is shaped like a human body, a design Huygens borrowed from the Roman architect Vitruvius. The house is conceived as the head, the bridge over the moat the neck. The long avenues are arms, the orchard is the belly. The Westeinde street bisecting the estate is the middle. The body below the belt is no longer part of the estate – it has been built over to create Voorburg Station.

I did wonder how Huygen’s family would have fitted into the house – house and garden must have been the tiniest estate in the Netherlands. If I remember correctly he had five children, four boys and a girl. He must have kept them in a garret, or housed them away from the estate, for it is clearly a summer retreat built for one man, a man of genius that wanted to make show the world he was a genius.

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