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Peter Zumthor will design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

For the last decade the Serpentine Gallery in London has commissioned a different architect each year to design an outdoor event space for their annual summer pavilion, a three month-long symposium on architecture. The practice of designing, building and removing the pavilion – all of which happens within the space of six months – is an architectural experiment in itself and is always greatly anticipated. This year the Serpentine Gallery has enlisted the services of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor who designed a walled-in garden, currently under construction in Kensington Gardens.

Visitors will recall last year’s striking red structure designed by fellow Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel. Past designers and architects include Toyo Ito, Oscar Niemeyer, Zaha Hadid, Olafur Eliasson and Frank Gehry, all of whom opted for impressive, angular constructions made from various combinations of steel, aluminum, concrete and glass. In short, a marked disinclination towards natural materials. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that Zumthor is taking an earthier approach.

While the indoor garden is still housed within a man-made form, the structure itself is made from wood, designed as a labyrinth of sorts that eventually leads visitors to the heart of the maze where they’re rewarded with a lush garden and a quiet space for reflection. The inspiration for Zumthor’s concept comes from the idea of a hortus conclusus, a garden within a garden, or literally “enclosed garden.” The term is a major theme in the history of gardening, and therefor utterly appropriate for an architectural installation in Kensington Gardens, which is nearly three centuries old. Hortus conclusus is also the Medieval term for the Virgin Mary in reference to her pure and sacred womb where the baby Jesus supposedly blossomed of his own fruition.

Since Zumthor’s project has just begun the only pictures available are computer renderings, but be sure to check back for progress reports as the July opening of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion approaches.