The Serpentine Gallery’s 2011 Summer Pavilion is a simple black box from the outside, but through the undecorated darkened doorways it all gets a bit secret garden on the inside. Designed by Peter Zumthor, it’s like the ugly duckling of Summer Pavilions and while we managed to get a few shots of the structure while it was running they struggle to do it the justice it deserves.
The Serpentine Gallery’s exhibit is one of the great architecture shows of the year and never fails to grab attention, but when we first saw Zumthor’s black block design from the we started to doubt the power of the 2011 pavilion. However, on the inside it’s got more than enough charm to impress with its haven of tranquility feel.
The doorways on the outside lead to darkened passageways streaked with shafts of light thanks to the inwardly sloping roof of the pavilion, which seem to have been designed to funnel the sunlight down to it’s base. There’s a mystical feel to the experience, like you’re travelling through the looking glass or out the back end of the magical wardrobe, and when you step through one of the sunlit inner doorways you’re suddenly transported to a lush garden setting of zen like proportions.
Understandably it was packed inside with a hoard of visitors, especially on the opening weekend, however, that in itself is a bit of misdirection. The seats around the outer edge were relatively easy to get a sit down on, and the teaming throng turns into a collective community almost instantly. The hubbub of people talking in the sun reflects off the noise trapping walls, enveloping the entire pavilion with an echoing hum that’s sort of soporific and calming.
While the Serpentine Pavilion 2011 isn’t as attention grabbing as the bold red of Jean Nouvel’s 2010 Summer Pavilion, there was definitely more to it than met the eye on first approach. The longer you stay inside the pavilion (it was particularly good for closing out the world outside and reading a book in) the more you appreciate the intricate attention to design detail that Peter Zumthor has brought to bear on the Serpentine Gallery’s 2011 pavilion, which easily stacks up to some of its best.
Peter Zumthor’s Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion 2011 review: 4/5
Peter Zumthor’s Summer Pavilion was followed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei in 2012 and Sou Fujimoto in 2013. You can find out more about the latest installation at the Serpentine Gallery at our 2014 Summer Pavilion page.