Hidden garden: Zumthor’s Serpentine pavilion

Upon the threshold between park and courtyard is where Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s trademark of simple yet careful control of light and juxtaposing materials resides.

Once inside, it is the most comfortable of spaces. On a warm day, the heat absorbing black walls provide shade and a cool place to easily spend hours. There is something rustic in the way the square exterior form is cut into a pitched roof on the interior.

Zumthor’s design for this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in Hyde Park is incredibly simple, functional and effective, allowing light to hit the abundant wildflower garden in the centre and providing a sleek structure to shade coffee drinkers below. The abundance of bees gorging on the plantations nectar is a particularly welcome sight.

Aptly, considering that this is the cherry bursting of the architect’s design virginity on British soil, the Pavilion is akin to a holiday resort. Visitors reside as though they are enjoying a week away on Rhodes or Sardinia. The Pavilion quintessentially reflects English sentimentality, yet with a sophistication that elevates it to the function of a retreat from its surroundings.

It gives an immense sense of harmony between people and nature. The architect’s intention to ‘help its audience take the time to relax’ is seemingly fulfilled by the majority sharing the space.

Of the exterior aesthetics, perhaps transporting the entire pavilion to an industrial estate where it can sit alongside similar rectangular cubes would offer an interesting test and evolution of its properties!

The Pavilion is amazing, and clearly a very logical, successful and sensible answer to a well thought out brief. With the interior guarded from the roadside and park, it transforms the occupants from intrigued tourists and curious city inhabitants into care free relaxed dwellers and faux sophisticated island excursionists.

Guest blogger Craig Allen

This is the eleventh commission in the Serpentine Gallery’s annual Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, London. Peter Zumthor’s creation will remain on exhibit until 16 October 2011. For more on the project and video links to conversations with the architect visit here.

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