Foundation for the Conservation of the Historical Estate Ockenburgh

The Foundation for the Conservation of the Historic Country Estate Ockenburgh (SHBO) represents over 150 dedicated local volunteers whose exemplary efforts revived this significant monument, located in the city of The Hague in the Netherlands. Together, they invested 80,000 hours restoring the estate’s grounds, surrounding parkland, and the villa’s interior. A diverse team of experts, including landscape architects, interior designers, and social educators, volunteered their expertise. Local businesses provided materials and labour, while community members donated furniture, decorations, and their time. The initiator, Petra Brekelmans, inspired many with her cheerful and infectious enthusiasm.

Foundation for the Conservation of the Historical Estate Ockenburgh, The Hague, THE NETHERLANDS

The Ockenburgh Estate was founded in 1654 by Jacob Westerbaen, a knighted poet, doctor, and preacher, a lover of the arts and an energetic gardener. The estate’s location in the southwest of The Hague borders Westland, an area renowned for its greenhouses and market gardening, and said to be an outgrowth of Westerbaen’s vegetable gardens. Over the centuries, Ockenburgh underwent numerous transformations, including from 1971 as a youth hostel and community park. Neglected for two decades after the hostel’s closure in 1996, Villa Ockenburgh accrued a €3 million backlog in maintenance costs.

In October 2014, SHBO established a restoration plan with The Hague authorities: in all, a decade-long effort transformed Ockenburgh into a safe and welcoming community space. The monumental Villa Ockenburgh now houses a restaurant serving local cuisine, including herbs from its garden, a self-sustaining café, and the Villa Bijzonder Foundation, a centre for people with disabilities, teaching them skills to help them find quality jobs in the future.

Foundation for the Conservation of the Historical Estate Ockenburgh, The Hague, THE NETHERLANDS

The project was made possible thanks to the collaboration between SHBO volunteers, schools, businesses, charities, The Hague officials, the Province of South Holland, and the Heritage Table of Country Estates of South Holland (Erfgoedtafel Landgoederenzone). Volunteers still play a big role at Ockenburgh. They regularly maintain the grounds, and fruit and vegetable gardens, carry out maintenance of the interior and exterior of the villa, and organise many cultural events and community gatherings throughout the year. Taking part in volunteering activities at the villa is so in demand that SHBO maintains a waiting list for people wishing to take part.

Also working on a voluntary basis and under Karin Zwinkels’ leadership, SHBO’s Board oversees Ockenburgh’s administration, builds and maintains relationships with partners, and works to make the estate more sustainable and future-proof.


The Foundation for the Conservation of the Historical Estate Ockenburgh is exemplary in its excellent community engagement, extensive volunteer involvement, and partnership with local institutions in the restoration and revival of the estate. The community’s commitment and innovative fundraising strategies are commendable. The initiative, which includes the high-quality integration of the NATURA 2000 landscape and historical buildings, answers to the principles of the New European Bauhaus. A truly bottom-up initiative, it has supported social cohesion and created a sense of belonging with close consideration of the contemporary context”, the Awards’ Jury said.

Contact: Karin Zwinkels, SHBO Board | |