Serpentine Gallery's 2011 Pavilion by Peter Zumthor
Each year, London's Serpentine Gallery has a temporary pavilion designed by a well-known architect. This year's version is by Pritzker prize winner Peter Zumthor, with a garden by Piet Oudolf—the first time horticulture has joined architecture in the 11 years of the pavilion's history.
Each year, London’s Serpentine Gallery commissions a temporary pavilion from one of the world’s leading architects who has yet to build in Britain. It is a chance for the architect to show off his talents in a high-profile way—the gallery sits at the edge of Kensington Gardens, one of central London’s royal parks, and more than 800,000 visitors traipse through during the summer season.
This is the first construction in Britain of Peter Zumthor (left), winner of the 2009 Pritzker prize for architecture.
This year, 68-year-old Swiss architect Peter Zumthor takes a turn. His matte black windowless rectangle, 18 feet high and covering just over 4,000 square feet, doesn’t shout its presence; it is a long, low box sitting quietly among the trees. However, it is as striking in its simplicity as his austerely beautiful Therme Vals in his native Switzerland and the concrete oblong of the Bruder Klaus Chapel in Germany—designs that won Zumthor an international reputation and the 2009 Pritzker prize for architecture.
Within Peter Zumthor's stark, monastic creation for London's Serpentine Gallery, a garden designed by Piet Oudolf breaks out in a frenzy of shapes and colors.
The visitor is led by way of winding concrete paths through one of six high doorways, along narrow corridors and then out into the delight of a central planted courtyard—properly, a "hortus conclusus," a garden fully enclosed by buildings—a style with roots in Roman times and distinct echoes of the medieval abbey cloisters of Europe.
Concrete paths lead into the structure.
The style has been brought up to date here: Open to the sky, the courtyard contains a 13- by 100-foot-long bed designed by the Dutch master plantsman Piet Oudolf, creator of landscape schemes such as the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park and the High Line in New York. It also marks the first time horticulture has joined architecture in the 11 years of the pavilion’s history.
Close-up of the monarda and astrantia in the garden.
“Enclosed gardens fascinate me,” says Zumthor, whose work has a monkish air appropriate to this cloistered space. “Every time I imagine a garden in an architectural setting, it turns into a magical place.” Having designed the pavilion, he left it to Oudolf to conjure up the magic—a signature tapestry of monardas and eupatorium, cimicifuga and astrantia, euphorbia and angelica, woven through with wispy molinia grasses, the richness of which contrasts beautifully with the simplicity of the black walls around it.
A narrow corridor leading to the garden.
When the exhibition ends in October, both the pavilion and garden will be transplanted to a secret location belonging to an anonymous buyer to sit quietly among another copse of trees.
Visitors walking in and out of the gallery.
The pavilion is open until October 16, 2011. For more information, visit the Serpentine Gallery's website.