‘Hortus Conclusus’ at Kensington Gardens

By on July 25, 2011.

As the 11th temporary pavilion constructed on the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens of London, England, Peter Zumthor centers his design on the concept of ‘hortus conclusus’, latin for ‘enclosed garden’.  Zumthor focuses his intervention, like most of his designs, on the sensory and spiritual aspects of the architectural experience.  ‘A garden is the most intimate landscape ensemble I know of…..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’.

The architecture, built of timber and blanketed with hessian scrim and black Idenden, provides a protective barrier from the surrounding intrusion of sounds, smells and views.  The central garden, designed by Landscape Architect Piet Oudulf, is the focal point of the project.  Many of Oudulf’s gardens are key elements of high profile projects, such asthe High Line in NYC, Lurie Garden at Millennium Park, Chicago and the Gardens of Remembrance at the Battery, NYC.  His designs are inspired by nature, not replicated, utilizing the unique qualities of the plants to create a dramatization of form, texture and color, ultimately producing a naturalistic-looking garden that is thoughtfully organized and complex in design.  His garden in ‘hortus conclusus’ combines parsnip with other plants such as eupatorium, cimicifuga, molinia grasses, astrantia major and monarda to create a ‘loose and wild’ texture.

The resulting collaboration of landscape architect and architect is an intimate, speculative space that glorifies the idea of a ‘garden within a garden’, creating a space open to the sky where the garden is the centerpiece.  I believe this project is a great example of the unrivaled success between two world-renowned designers of different disciplines.  In a video interview discussing the project, Peter Zumthor describes his interaction with Piet Oudulf; “There was no concept discussion about what are you going to do, and, I want to see this…..I trusted him, and he surprised me with this wonderful garden”.  Although a temporary (July 1 – October 16, 2011) and small project, it shows the powerful product of teamwork.

 

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