Zumthor to silence London

Monday 04 Apr 2011

Design revealed for 2011 Serpentine Pavilion

Enlightening images have now been released of proposals for this year’s Serpentine Gallery, composed by 2009 Pritzker Prize laureate Peter Zumthor. The temporary pavilion will be the celebrated Swiss architect’s first completed project in the United Kingdom as is tradition for all contributing designers, as part of the unique annual series run by the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Hyde Park.

Following in the footsteps of fellow Pritzker Prize winners Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and last year’s Jean Nouvel, Zumthor has proposed a bold concept with a simple but suggestive choice of materials and form. A lightweight timber frame will be wrapped with scrim and coated with a black paste mixed with sand, with covered walkways leading quizzical visitors to a sheltered and delicately planted courtyard designed by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf.

Zumthor’s Pavilion looks to temper the deafening hubbub of London’s city centre in a hushed alcove for moments of reflection. The architect clarifies: “The concept for this year’s Pavilion is the hortus concluses, 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.”

Renderings and descriptive passages released by the Serpentine encapsulate the essence of Zumthor’s firm, uncompromising style; classic materials, clean lines and simplistic blocks that have become characteristic of the Swiss’ architectural expression. The minimalistic form ‘aims to help its audience take the time to relax, to observe and then, perhaps, start to talk again – maybe not’.

With only internal courtyard images available at this point it is difficult to compare the new concept with its predecessors, such as Jean Nouvel’s bold, scarlet vision of last year which drew incredible crowds of foreign and domestic visitors together to play chess and sup cold beverages under rouge-hued glass canopies; or the floating aluminium shelter composed by Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa of Japanese firm SANAA in 2009, whose appearance was altered moment-to-moment as the London sky shifted throughout the day.

Funding for the temporary Serpentine Pavilion will be sourced from sponsorship and sponsorship-in-kind, along with the sale of the completed structure following its term in the public realm. As always, there will be no budget set for Peter Zumthor’s creation, for which he will collaborate with engineers Arup, construction firm Mace and development company Stanhope. The Pavilion will be open for public use for three months this coming summer, before being sold to a private bidder.

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