Peter Zumthor: Hortus Conclusus: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011
Serpentine Gallery | Koenig Books, 2012
Hardcover, 104 pages
Every summer since 2000 (minus 2004) Kensington Gardens in London has been the site of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, a temporary structure designed by a superstar architect. For a few days around the unveiling of the built work, this part of London is the focus of the world of architecture as journalists, architects, and the curious flock to see the newest thing. Removed in the fall, the pavilions live on in photographs and in documentation of the events taking place within them. This year's design actually picks up on the temporary nature of the buildings, aiming to unearth the previous foundations and incorporate them into the pavilion (not finding any foundations, architects Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei rebuilt them as cork surfaces instead).
Last year's pavilion, Hortus Conclusus, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor with Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, is documented in this handsome catalogue. Most of the roughly 100 pages are devoted to color photographs of the pavilion's outside and inside, making the theme of "a garden within the garden" very clear. Zumthor's essay, which comes after a lovely watercolor of the design's plan and section, makes as much clear as well. But what makes the book worth the price of admission -- what takes it beyond just an assemblage of the same photos that can be found online anyways -- is the documentation of Oudolf's design of the garden, which takes up about about a dozen pages, most of them photos and descriptions of plant species. It may be strange that a book on a program that charts the progress of contemporary architecture on a yearly basis is most valuable in terms of landscape design, but that follows from Zumthor's design. The heart of the built project was the enclosed garden, and the plants that comprised it defined the short-lived experience. In this book that experience lives on.