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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 in London, UK by Peter Zumthor

 
August 5th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Peter Zumthor

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 is designed by world-renowned Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. This year’s Pavilion is the 11th commission in the Gallery’s annual series, the world’s first and most ambitious architectural programme of its kind. It is the architect’s first completed building in the UK and includes a specially created garden by the influential Dutch designer Piet Oudolf.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

  • Architect: Peter Zumthor
  • Name of Project: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011
  • Location: UK
  • Client: Serpentine Gallery
  • Garden: Piet Oudolf
  • Period: 1 July – 16 October 2011
  • Photography: Hufton+Crow, John Offenbach, Walter Herfst

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: John Offenbach

  • Project & Construction Management: MACE
  • Engineering: Arup
  • Town Planning Consultants: DP9
  • Sponsored by: Maybach
  • Advisors: Arup, Stanhope plc
  • Platinum Sponsor: Mace Group

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: John Offenbach

At the heart of Peter Zumthor’s Pavilion is a garden that the architect hopes will inspire visitors to become observers. Zumthor says his design ‘aims to help its audience take the time to relax, to observe and then, perhaps, start to talk again – maybe not.’ The design emphasizes the role the senses and emotions play in our experience of architecture. With a refined selection of materials Zumthor creates contemplative spaces that evoke the spiritual dimension of our physical environment. As always, Zumthor’s aesthetic goal is to customize the building precisely to its purpose as a physical body and an object of emotional experience.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: John Offenbach

Zumthor has stated that ‘the concept for this year’s Pavilion is the hortus conclusus, a contemplative room, a garden within a garden. The building acts as a stage, a backdrop for the interior garden of flowers and light. Through blackness and shadow one enters the building from the lawn and 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. This experience will be intense and memorable, as will the materials themselves – full of memory and time.’

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: John Offenbach

Materials have always played an evocative as well as an essential role in the buildings designed by Zumthor. The 2011 Pavilion is constructed of a lightweight timber frame wrapped with scrim and coated with a black Idenden over scrim. Exterior and interior walls with staggered doorways offer multiple paths for visitors to follow, gently guiding them to a central, hidden inner garden. The covered walkways and seating surrounding this central space create a serene, contemplative environment from which visitors look onto the richly planted sunlit garden, the heart and focus of the building.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Hufton+Crow

With this Pavilion, as with previous structures such as the famous Thermal Baths at Vals, Switzerland, or the Bruder Klaus Chapel in Mechernich, Germany, Zumthor has emphasized the sensory and spiritual aspects of the architectural experience, from the precise yet simple composition and ‘presence’ of the materials, to the handling of scale and the effect of light. Piet Oudolf is a prominent garden designer and a leading figure of the New Perennial planting movement. His award-winning designs emphasise the natural architecture of plants, using expressive drifts of grasses and herbaceous perennials to create gardens that evolve in form throughout the lives of the plants. These are chosen for their structure, form, texture and colour, showcasing many different varieties in his compositions. Oudolf has pioneered an approach to gardening that embraces the full life-cycle of plants, delighting in their beauty throughout the seasons.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Hufton+Crow

Piet Oudolf said: “I am very pleased to be collaborating with Peter Zumthor and the Serpentine Gallery on this year’s Pavilion and to be part of this exciting project. My work aims to bring nature back into human surroundings and this Pavilion provides the perfect opportunity for people to reflect and relax in a contemplative garden away from the busy metropolis.”

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Hufton+Crow

The Serpentine’s Pavilion commission, conceived in 2000 by Gallery Director Julia Peyton-Jones, has become an international site for architectural experimentation and follows a decade of Pavilions by some of the world’s greatest architects. Each Pavilion is sited on the Gallery’s lawn for three months and the immediacy of the commission – a maximum of six months from invitation to completion – provides a unique model worldwide.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Gallery, said: “It is an honour and a great joy to be working with Peter Zumthor on the 11th Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. The commission allows us to connect with the best architects in the world and each year is an exciting and completely new experience. Zumthor’s plans will realise an exquisite space for the public to enjoy throughout the summer.”

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

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. Park Nights will culminate in the annual Serpentine Gallery Marathon in October, now in its sixth year. In 2006 the Park Nights programme included the renowned 24-hour Serpentine Gallery Interview Marathon, convened by Hans Ulrich Obrist and architect Rem Koolhaas; in 2007, the Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon presented by artist Olafur Eliasson and Hans Ulrich Obrist; in 2008, Obrist led over 60 participants in the Serpentine Gallery Manifesto Marathon. These were followed in 2009 by the Serpentine Gallery Poetry Marathon and in 2010 by the Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

Architect’s Statement

Hortus conclusus

We come from nature and we return to nature; we are conceived and born; we live and die; we rot or burn and vanish into the earth. I rarely thought about such things when I was young. Now I do. I see a great cycle and I am part of it. For a little while, I am here. I did not exist before my time and I will no longer exist after my time. But in my time, I belong to the process of life on this planet; for a little while I am part of the organism of human beings, animals and plants that exists on this planet and that passes life on.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

Looking back I realise that I have always taken plants for granted; they were part of my surroundings; they were self-evident and I enjoyed them as meadows, gardens or woods. That has changed. I have become more attentive to the plant world even though I never studied it and know only a few plants by name. But I like being with them. To me, their presence is quieting.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

Plants embody everything that I like to have around me: presence, personality, character. They are supple and therefore strong, yet softly-spoken and gentle; they are fragrant and delicate; they have movement, colour, structure, scale and proportion. Plants are large in form, tiny in detail and always a single whole. Plants are beautiful in sun and rain, in tropical heat, fighting immortal cold, dancing in the wind, buffeted by storms.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

Plants have long been part of the earth’s history. They come from afar. Their beauty is deep and beyond question. It can be overwhelming; their fragrance beguiling. I look at my garden and I see vibrancy, opulence, serenity; I see dignity, playfulness, infinite tenderness, the nodding kindness of Herb Roberti, and in the larger, beautiful picture, I discover small, modest dots of colour that enhance the luxuriant whole.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

Landscapes mark the surface of the earth. Billions of plants react to sun, wind and weather, to heat and humidity, to drought and cold, to the nature of the soil in which they grow; they ceaselessly converge to form new plant societies and landscape ensembles. They are infinite in number and variety; they grow naturally and are influenced by us: oases, steppes, forests, wetlands, meadows, moors, landscaped parks. And there are gardens: herb gardens, kitchen gardens, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, rose gardens, pleasure gardens. Every name listed here evokes a distinct image; with each of them I associate specific lighting, smells and sounds, many kinds of rest, and a deep awareness of the earth and its flora.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

A garden is the most intimate landscape ensemble I know of. It is close to us. In it we cultivate the plants we need. A garden requires care and protection. And so we encircle it, we defend it and fend for it. We give it shelter. The garden turns into a place.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

Enclosed gardens fascinate me. 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.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

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.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: Walter Herfst

The centre of my pavilion is a garden; it invites us to gather around. We will meet in the garden. I am looking forward to the natural energy and beauty of the tableau vivant of grasses, flowers and shrubs that Piet Oudolf has created and will plant for our hortus conclusus. I am looking forward to the colours and shapes, the smell of the soil, the movement of the leaves, the scent of the Bugbane and Joe Pye Weed. Piet tells me that butterflies and bees love their smell.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 Designed by Peter Zumthor © Peter Zumthor Photograph: John Offenbach

Peter Zumthor © Gerry Ebner

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