New Serpentine Pavilion has a Piet Oudolf Garden

front serpentine photo

Photo: serpentine gallery

It's a tradition: each summer for the past eleven years, the Serpentine Gallery commissions a different architect to design a pavilion on the adjacent park lands. It serves as an inspirational place to hang out, hear lectures and have a drink.

This year's is designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. It is his first completed building in the UK and it includes a specially created garden by the Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf ( of New York's High Line and Battery Park fame).

exterior serpentine photo

Photo: serpentine gallery

There have been many super-star architects designing the pavilions, including Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Jean Nouvel. This one is a much quieter construct. From the road it looks like a black rectangular box with dark doorways. It is made out of plywood with black coating applied on the surface. The architect has designed several Catholic churches and there is a monastic feeling to the place, like a cloisters.

He has said, in an essay about the pavilion:

"We come from nature and return to nature; we are conceived and born; we live and die; we rot or burn and vanish into the earth."

court yard photo

Photo: serpentine gallery

The centerpiece of the project is the courtyard in the middle. The idea is called a "hortus conclusus", an enclosed garden. The architect is fascinated by them.

He says that "A garden is the most intimate landscape ensemble I know of. A forerunner of this fascination is my love of the fenced vegetable gardens on farms in the Alps, where farmers' wives often planted flowers as well. I love the image of these small rectangles cut out of vast alpine meadows, the fence keeping the animals out. There is something else that strikes me in this image of a garden fenced off within the larger landscape around it: something small has found sanctuary within something big."

piet court photo

Photo: serpentine gallery

The courtyard is filled with wild flowers and plants. It is the work of famed Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf. He has completed public (such as the High Line in New York and Battery Park), as well as private projects across the world. He is known for his innovative use of naturalistic and wild plants and flowers. Structure is as important as the flowers themselves in his work.

Oudolf was given free rein by the architect and he has created a meadow of geraniums, lobelia, iris, cow-parsley and mixed wild grasses which become the focal point. It is already an attraction for bees and butterflies and bugs. Above is a square of sky which is framed by the building and almost becomes a picture.

It is meant to be a place of contemplation...however the pavilions are popular. Last year's drew 800,000 people over the season. They are built with the assistance of private sponsors and are sold and removed at the end of the season. They usually end up on private estates and country places.

More on Public Gardens and Architectural Pavilions
Architectural Pavilions Grace London's Parks and Squares
New York's Community Gardens Lose Protected Status
Take the High Line ! Check Out Manhattan's Newest Park

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