AAJ Press
Architecture & Design, Ecology, Environment, Gardens, Nature

Peter Zumthor: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011: Hortus Conclusus

“The hortus conclusus that I dream of is enclosed all around and open to the sky. Every time I imagine a garden in an architectural setting, it turns into a magical place. I think of gardens that I have seen, that I believe I have seen, that I long to see, surrounded by simple walls, columns, arcades or the façades of buildings – sheltered places of great intimacy where I want to stay for a long time.” Peter Zumthor

The Serpentine 2011 Pavilion is designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, and is the 11th commission in the Gallery’s annual series. It will be the architect’s first completed building in the UK and includes a specially created wild and natural meadow garden by the Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf.

Zumthor’s Pavilion centres around the concept of a hortus conclusus, a hidden inner garden, a contemplative room, a garden within a garden. The building acts as a stage, a backdrop for the interior garden of flowers and light conceived by Piet Oudolf. Zumthor creates contemplative spaces that evoke the spiritual and the importance of the garden as a place of reflection. The design emphasises the role the senses and emotions play in our experience of architecture and suggests both a minimalist Moorish garden and the conceptual monastic space of Herman Hesse’s Castalia in his novel The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi).

The 2011 Pavilion is constructed of a lightweight timber frame wrapped with scrim and coated with a black Idenden over scrim. The effect is enigmatic. Surrounded by lawns and foliage a blackened vernacular building emerges with three plain rectangular entrances on each side. It may be a blackened cricket pavilion, a simple shrine or a pitch-covered fisherman’s store. Up a rough concrete ramp and into blackness and an external corridor that surrounds the central sanctum. It is necessary to manoeuvre around the corridor and discover the internal staggered doorways. Then begins the transition into the central garden, a place abstracted from the world of noise and traffic and the smells of London – an interior space within which to sit, to walk, to observe the flowers.

Zumthor’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion will operate as a public space and as a venue for Park Nights, the Gallery’s high-profile programme of public talks and events, which culminates in the annual Serpentine Gallery Marathon in October.

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA

Open to the public 1 July – 16 October, 10am – 6pm daily.  Open until 10pm on Friday Park Nights. Admission free


About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


One thought on “Peter Zumthor: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011: Hortus Conclusus

  1. My hat off! Zumthor’s pavilion is a brilliant execution of a concept. I hope there were more architects thinking alike.
    see my pavilion pictures here;

    Posted by Blog de Artefacto Magazine | July 1, 2011, 1:41 am

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