Project Type: Pavilion Analysis
ARC 981 - Junior Independent Work Hayley Eber (EFGH)
With: Amanda Santillo
The building is never “just” a building—it is always a “lived” building.
The design of the 2011 Serpentine Pavilion was awarded to Pritzker Price recipient Peter Zumthor. An “exclusive” architect, Peter Zumthor prides itself in choosing only commissions that present a challenge to him and his team. By accepting the design and construction of the Serpentine Pavilion, Zumthor was set to share his thoughts about architecture with a broader audience.
When discussing Peter Zumthor, one might consider him to be outdated in his practice and development of architecture. Yet, what some may not know, is that Peter Zumthor is very aware of the practice of today’s architecture—he just chooses to do it his way.
Zumthor falls under the architectural phenomenologist—he designs for the experience of architecture, not just the observing of it. Phenomenology, by itself, studies consciousness and the objects of direct experience. If a building must be experienced to be understood, then it is not surprising that this philosophical approach was quickly applied to architecture. Inspired mainly by the theories of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Juhani Pallasmaa, Zumthor’s architecture wants you to go through the building and capture it through all your senses—not just the eye.
The design for the Serpentine Pavilion is no exception to Zumthor’s approach. The monolithic-like structure encloses a Piet Oudolf designed garden that forces the visitor to meditate, reflect, rethink. The garden in itself is a rethinking of nature and just like the latter, the structure enclosing it is a rethinking of architecture. Its labyrinth-like barrier separating the park from the inside garden, makes it a little challenging for the visitor to arrive a this place of serenity and, at the same time, assures that once within the garden, everything unwanted will be blocked off (even color—achieved by the used of black).
Zumthor then, offers the visitor a unique place: one that must be experienced to be understood; one that must be visited to be appreciated; and one that, because of the latter two reasons, becomes challenging to rethink. We challenged this challenge.