I had an unexpected delight last week. I found myself late afternoon in Kensington Gardens and realised I was just in time to get to the Serpentine Gallery before it shut at six. This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, the eleventh, was created by the architect Peter Zumthor with planting by Piet Oudolph. It is an enclosed garden, hortus conclusus, and follows Zen garden principles. In Zumthor’s words it is designed as ‘a contemplative room. A garden within a garden’.
I particularly liked the rawness of Zumthor’s building material. A timber frame is wrapped with scrim and then coated in black polymer emulsion. It reflects the economic climate and at the same time allows the eye, with little distraction, to focus on the sublime planting. This was a mixture of angelica, eupatorium, astrantia, bergamot, aster, grasses and probably much more. I shall return to see it at different stages over the year knowing that Oudolph celebrates nature in decline as much as in full glory.