Entering the pavilion through a number of doors staggered along the outer walls, you choose your path into the architectural space. Passing through matte black corridors into the chamber within, you approach a sky-lit room containing a ‘Hortus Conclusus’, or an enclosed contemplative garden room, created by Piet Oudolf.
…more middle-class, zen-tearoom than a “sensory spiritual architectural experience…”
This is the beating heart of the structure, a tranquil enclave that offers a refuge from the hi-tech-lycra-sports-attire pounding the avenues of the park, and the noise of busy city beyond. Though the light streams down on the garden, the atmosphere in the room is heavy and voices adjust to a peaceful, muffled tone, fitting with the matte black surfaces that make the space into a room.
The idea of the room as an escape is somewhat compromised by the presence of a coffee van outside, which encourages visitors to purchase wares that can be taken into the pavilion. There is an element of discomfort as the commercial aspect of the Serpentine’s project is revealed and in this way the pavilion is perhaps more middle-class, zen-tearoom than a “sensory spiritual architectural experience” based on “materiality,” as promoted by the gallery.
It is, however, a beautiful way to spend a late-summer afternoon. Visit, have coffee, stay for hours.
The Pavilion is open until 16 October.