Modern Hortus Conclusus: the Serpentine pavillion 2011

The rigour, geometry, spiritual and, to a degree, romance filled imagery of the pre-Renaissance and Renaissance italian painting tradition, seen below in Fra' Angelico's  Annunciation in the Convent of San Marco, Florence, are key elements in the  establishment of the cultural and physical identity of the 'hortus conclusus' or enclosed garden.

The pavillion at the Serpentine, built in the summer of 2011 and widely circulated, is such a form, an enclosure that links back to the original philosophical and spiritual meaning.

Showing a mute, sombre exterior, it becomes, physically and metaphorically, the container, the body, opening to reveal a centre filled with tranquil warmth, glow and serenity.

The structure, designed by Peter Zumthor, is complemented by an interior garden by Piet Oudolf, featured also on this blog for his gardens at the last Venice Architecture Biennale.

Here are some images to enjoy and reflect on, as an opportunity to develop a more continuous relationship, physical, emotional and intellectual with the interior green spaces that we could begin to integrate in our working and domestic lives.

Images copyright: Oscar Ferrari.

The planting experiences and individual approach of Oudolf is beautifully imaged and explained in Thames and Hudson's 'Oudolf Landscapes in Landscapes', 2011.

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Ulf Nordjfell- the romance of the North

Ulf Nordfjell's garden style is beautifully illustrated and explained in Fourteen Gardens, a monograph published by Frances Lincoln, with photos by Jerry Harpur.

The introduction, named Inspiration- the desire to create, states that:

I take my inspiration from the urban landscape of Stockholm, bubbling with the energy of everyday life, combined with a longing for the 'romance' of the Tuscan landscape and the familiar atmosphere of  the norther Swedish province of Argemanland where I grew up. I love contrasts, and in my work I move freely within these extremes".

And in another section, Experiences, Nordfjell shares his techniques of planting design scaling down the broad brush plantig effects of his larger works to suit the domestic sphere:

Large drifts of perennials can be emulated in a normal-sized garden by groups of 5-15 plants of each variety. Let the plants appear in different parts of the garden, in different combinations.This creates both drama and calm. Individual plants of the same species can usefully be employed as spot plants in other parts of the garden.

A trademark planting style is reminiscent of meadows and fallow, untouched open land, where grasses, Deschmpsia cespitosa 'Goldschleyer', Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Forster' and Miscanthus sinensis 'Poseidon', are interplanted with giant white foxtail lilies, Eremurus x isabellinus ' Obelisk', or Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert' for late summer/ autumn.

The book is delightful for gardeners, as it clearly tracks and labels the plant species in the photographs,and in this way adds to our enjoyment!

I leave with images of the Chelsea 2009 garden, Best in Show.

images courtesy of the Daily Telegraph and

Colour, Composition, Flora

For some time I have been really interested in the work of Polly Apfelbaum, a NYC artist who has built a body of work between painting and sculpture, through the use of fabric, cut, dyed, drawn and placed.

This latest work has become more abstract and in some ways more linked to responding to the site: stretch sequin fabrics are cut and placed in the gallery, interacting with the architecture of the space, involving viewers in the glow of the light, in negotiating the spacing of the pieces, in revelling in the simple scale and seduction of the composition.

These works were preceded, in 2005-2009, by complex installations of cut synthetic velvet shapes, often as diagrammatic flowers, in monochrome or tonal compositions.

Increasingly,  esterni will be developing and disseminating more of the cross-disciplinary links found between art and design and design for landscape, for horticulture and planting. Here we are highlighting the use of scale, colour relationships, form, easily understood for their link to gardens. Flora has been an intriguing subject for artists, as seen in the previous post, one I have been very familiar with in the field of textiles, and that I am growing to understand more about. Plants and their shapes as the changing and growing medium of a contemporary art form.

I leave you to revel in these glorious prints of abstract flowers, a riot of composition, scale, colour harmonies.

All images copyright: Polly Apfelbaum.

Carlo Scarpa & Fernando Caruncho- water

In this post- we're having a short break in the next couple of weeks - I would like to speculate on connections between the architect Carlo Scarpa's and the garden architect Fernando Caruncho's use of water. This is prompted by an interesting post by an architecture student at Curtin University, Australia, blogging at architecture moves us. I am indebted to him for the use of the images below:

Here is his quote:

Born as Venetian, water is one of the greatest elements of Carlo Scarpa’s architecture. The cemetery is carved with a series of everflowing canals; sometimes flowing aside the path and sometimes within a pond surrounding the steps and pavillion.

This put me in mind of Caruncho's equally impressive, but more positive and sundrenched water parterres, large and reflecting to Scarpa's minimal but exquisitely detailed.

S'Agao garden
Caruncho garden

And in turn, there is something about how both these men imagine and build with water which reminds me of Calvino's meanderings in recollecting the city of venice...

"Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any other messenger or explorer of his." So begins Italo Calvino's compilation of fragmentary urban images. As Marco tells the khan about Armilla, which "has nothing that makes it seem a city, except the water pipes that rise vertically where the houses should be and spread out horizontally where the floors should be," the spider-web city of Octavia, and other marvelous burgs, it may be that he is creating them all out of his imagination, or perhaps he is recreating details of his native Venice over and over again, or perhaps he is simply recounting some of the myriad possible forms a city might take.

Quote from review for Invisible Cities,

Happy summer break, see you at the beginning of September.