What come across in these latest pictures of Peter Zumthor’s pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery is the boldness and simplicity of his work. Most visitors to the new structure seem to head straight for the enclosed garden at its centre, drawn by the crowds and sunlight. But what is also waiting to be experienced is the darkness of the corridor that runs round the perimeter of the courtyard, a near-abandoned threshold between the busy grounds of Kensington Gardens and the inner sanctum of Zumthor’s hortus conclusus. In an interview with the Guardian’s Jonathan Glancey, Zumthor said: “I hope the building will trigger many emotions and different memories.”
Piet Oudolf: Garden designer
The hard black façade of this simple structure offers outsiders no indication of the space inside and features little in ornament, instead colours and details are provided in the garden, where Piet Oudolf has designed a rectangular patchwork of plants from 29 species. The soft textures of ornamental grasses and ferns at ground level are broken up by the flowers spikes of taller plants, offering a relaxed contrast to Zumthor’s clean lines. In the Telegraph Oudolf gives an indication of what he wanted to achieve: “I want visitors to see that architecture is simple and planting is complex. Looking into plants brings you into another kind of thinking, connected with inner space. That’s what a hortus conclusus is for. It’s simple, in a complex way.”
Find out more at the RIBA Library
The RIBA British Architectural Library is an ideal place to research these and other exhibition buildings; it holds books and journals about most of the past annual pavilions, of which this year’s is the 11th. Use the online catalogue to find out what is available in the collections. The Library is open to the public, just bring photographic I.D. and check the opening times before your visit.
Available to view in the RIBA’s collection of 50,000 digital images, RIBApix, are photographs of Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals hotel and spa complex in Graubunden, Switzerland.
Visting the pavilion
At the pavilion you can make use of the benches underneath the deep overhanging roof and enjoy Zumthor’s first completed building in the United Kingdom. The pavilion is open until 16 October 2011, admission is free.
London W2 3XA