Every summer, the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens unveils a new pavilion built by a renowned architect, designed to stand for just three months. This avant-garde happening is a high point in London’s calendar...(Note: I embedded the links in this excerpt from The Telegraph written by Joanna Fortnam. Read the whole thing here.)
Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is the Serpentine’s choice for 2011. He has a huge reputation internationally but is unbuilt in [the UK]... [U]nusually for this attention-grabbing installation, Zumthor has chosen to place a garden at the heart of his pavilion – it is, in fact, an enclosed garden or hortus conclusus...
The pavilion is a monastic place: sheer matt black walls form a high rectangular building . Each long side is pierced with three narrow entrances that give on to a corridor running around the building, making it a kind of double-walled construction, with four narrow doorways into the central space. In this cloister-like courtyard, deep eaves shelter the walkway, leaving a long rectangle open to the sky.
The sense of focus and seclusion is striking – traffic noise dims, the park landscape suddenly narrows to the border, roughly 90ft x 12ft, striped with sunshine or deep shade as the light moves across it...
Striking indeed. I was almost moved to tears. If I had been alone, I might have gone for it. Alas, one does not want to embarrass oneself in public with excessive shows of emotion.
The garden, with the plants now at their peak, some just past it, set in front of a black background reminded me of old Dutch flower paintings. How fitting that Oudolf is Dutch. Most if not all the key plants--Eupatorium maculatum, Monarda 'Jacob Cline', Sanguisorba canadensis, Aster microphyllus, et cetera--come from American meadows. So we have the American prairie in the hands of a Dutch master in London. The plant list is here. In addition to the black background, I believe the special effect is lighting from above, only.
I spent almost two hours in the Hortus Conclusus, moving from place to place, sitting quietly for several minutes at a time, taking picture after picture as the light changed and people passed through the pavilion. I decided to use larger picture file sizes for this blog post than I normally think are necessary. I hope it was worth any extra time it may have taken for you to load my blog. Now I will let you enjoy the rest of this experience as I did--in silence.