Jean Nouvel Serpentine Pavilion and Garden 2010 persuaded the Serpentine Gallery to persuade Jean Nouvel to include a garden! persuaded the Serpentine Gallery to persuade Jean Nouvel to include a garden!

Jean Nouvel’s design models for the Serpentine Pavilion (& see below) were attractive but ‘parked’ on the grass like a se of London buses. As built, the pavilion is better related to its context. It must be that the organizers have taken heed of the Gardenvisit blog’s comments on the 2010 Serpentine Pavilion. We remarked that ‘the Serpentine Gallery has a better opportunity to promote garden and landscape design than any other gallery in London‘. It is great that the Serpentine Gallery is moving in this direction – but I think they might have replied to my letter or left a comment on the blog to say ‘thanks a bundle’.

Jean Nouvel pavilion - inspired by London's buses

36 thoughts on “Jean Nouvel Serpentine Pavilion and Garden 2010

  1. Tom Turner Post author

    That is a really good idea. They could use a large video screen (perhaps visible from the outside) and display drawings + photographs of previous pavilions, preferably with a facility for voting and for comment. I would be happy to provide regular comment on the treatment of the surroundings of the pavilions!

  2. christine


    The deconstructivist approach to understanding the city is very useful as reduces the temptation to oversimplify the issues and complexities involved and encourages a layered approach to analysis.

    If we were to start with the idea that red is built area and green is non-built area what would London look like?

    Would we need other colours to aid our understanding beyond this first diagram?

    What colour would we choose next and what would it represent?

    How different would our first diagram of London look to the city of Paris? What would be the reason for these differences?

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    My simple theory of urban design is that it is the art of composing 5 primary components to make cities. They are: landform, water, vegetation, vertical structures (eg buildings), horizontal structures (eg roads and footpaths). And if it was not hard to ‘get hold of’, I would add climate and proclaim six compositional elements, as for gardens.
    So I very much like the idea of producing diagrams with five, or six, colours to represent the forms of cities. They could be blue, green, red and yellow + black for contours. But instead of using the 5 elements together it might be better to use them in pairs, as in your example of red and green.

  4. Christine

    Perhaps you could draw the city maps using the “5 primary components to make cities” and then organise them by climate zones? [ ]

    If they were drawn on CAD you could turn on and off any of the 5 primary layers to analyse the relationships between landform, water, vegetation, vertical structure and horizontal structures.

    Perhaps GIS would simplify this task?

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    The connection with climate zones would be fascinating – but more so for pre-industrial cities. And yes, it would be a much better job for GIS than for CAD. GIS has amazing potential for urban analysis and it is a great pity that current GIS applications, particularly by landscape architects, are so heavily influenced by Ian McHarg. He was a great man but his idea that planning could or should be deterministic was nutty!
    PS I often wonder if there is significance in the fact that JC Loudon, Patrick Geddes and Ian McHarg were brought up (like me!) near Scotland’s Highland Line. It was the meeting point of the tectonic plates which formed the British Isles and it was the effective limit of the Roman advance and it remained a dividing line between almost-pre-medieval and modern culture until the ’15 and the ’45 rebellions were quashed. It could be that these great fault lines give one an interest in urban and landscape evolution.

  6. Christine

    Lewis Mumford who was influenced by Patrick Geddes believed that “The physical design of cities and their economic functions are secondary to their relationship to the national environment and to the spiritual values of human community.”

    However he also Mumford thought “the medieval city [was]the basis for the “ideal city,” and [claimed] that the modern city is too close to the Roman city (the sprawling megalopolis) which ended in collapse.”

    For this reason he believed “if the modern city carries on in the same vein…then it will meet the same fate as the Roman city.” So there you have it theoretical arguments for density rather than sprawl!

    Many planning and urban design theories warrant a second or third reading…

  7. Tom Turner Post author

    It is interesting that Charles Jencks is doing a vast landscape project, with continental ambitions, in this region. Its present name is the Fife Earth Project.
    I agree with Mumford about medieval cities – and I think the sustainable city, or eco-city, of the future will be more like a medieval city than any popular city form which has arisen since the middle ages.

  8. Christine

    I don’t believe either the medieval (organic) city model [ ] or the roman (grid) city model [ ]is the complete answer to planning the contemporary city.

    The Beaux-arts planning of the Colombian Exposition [ ]influenced Walter Burley Griffin’s vision for the (unified) city of Canberra.

    Although Carmillo Sitte’s criticisms of contemporary cities planned on the car has merit and has been highly influential on the new urbanism movement..

    [He strongly criticized] “the prevailing emphasis in European city planning at the time on broad, straight boulevards, public squares arranged primarily for the convenience of traffic, and efforts to strip major public or religious landmarks of adjoining smaller structures that were regarded as encumbering such monuments of the past.”

    …each city context needs to be considered on its own merits.

    As a generality, a different planning approach is needed for the growth of an existing city as opposed to the opportunity that presents for creating an entirely new city.

    It seems some work has already been undertaken on mapping medieval cities in the UK.
    [ ]

  9. Tom Turner Post author

    Of course the city can’t go back and of course the city must go forward – our circumstances are so different in so many ways from those of our predecessors. The aspects of medieval cities which might re-appear are city centres with high buildings and narrow streets. But I think they will be much more vegetated than medieval cities and I think that there will be accessible open space at high levels – which one could compare with the battlement walks on castles (used for leisure in peace time) and the accessible roofspace on Elizabethan mansions (eg to the banqueting pavilions on Longleat).

  10. Christine

    Do you mean our grid cities could look something like this?
    [ ]

    These could be a close-up photographs? [ ] and [ ]

    Also the Hi-line is an incredible example of a good eco-project for New York city.
    [ ]
    Undoubtably peopling roofs will create a whole new market for outdoor furniture.
    [ ]

    I think this is a very interesting picture of the New York skyline [ ] it has something of the ‘red/green’ contrast of Jean Nouvel.

    I imagine the organic city will respond a little differently as will the unified city…with climate (see outdoor furniture) being an important influence.

  11. Grant

    Feel rather embarrassed to say, i just liked the space, came away very relaxed. I have to be honest i did not really read anything into it, just liked the layout, could’ve of stayed there all day drinking tea and people watching. A lot of red socks and darlings getting inspired for future work no doubt. It was a Sunday after all.


  12. Tom Turner Post author

    I am sorry I missed Oscar Niemeyer’s pavilion – he is in a class of his own. But white is a ‘more-abstract’ and ‘purer’ colour than red. Red smacks of pandering to the traditionally left-wing sympathiies of the architecture profession (?).

  13. Grant

    Christine, alas no only had my iphone, which was fast running out of battery, Doh! Have some pics if you want them.

    Tom, Its funny how social constructs stick. In the 70/80’s Red=The Red Flag= Cold war etc, now the construct (in my mind at least) has slipped as the threat of communism slips away. The Red flag of the left, again since New Labour (Right of Thatcher some would argue) the Left seems of another time ( i.e. the times of Militant and Liverpool Council).
    So its interesting how we are all influenced by the social constructs that we grow up with, as well as the ones the media/Government/gossips create for their own ends. After all pre 1914 in the UK pink was for a Boy, blue for a Girl.

    Thus the red socks, its all coming clear now.

  14. Christine

    Sure it would be good to see your photos Grant. Particularly looking forward to seeing the fashion conscious co-ordinated person in the red socks you mention.

    You are right about Niemeyer,Tom. Do you think the pavillion was influenced by his thinking for the 1996 Musuem of Contemporary Art in Rio? [ ]

    He recently received an award for his work from the Spanish government aged 102!
    [ ]

  15. Tom Turner Post author

    I like the red pedestrian surface on the Museum of Contemporary Art, and congratulations to the Spanish Government, though they took a risk in waiting so long!
    Re colour symbolism, one thinks of Red and White in the English Civil War and the Blues and Greens in Constantinople’s chariot races. Re British ‘socialism’ I remember the 1960s song – which anticipated Tony Blair’s foibles:
    The People’s flag is palest pink
    It’s not as red as people think
    The working class can kiss my arse
    I’ve got the foreman’s job at last

  16. Grant


    Laugh out loud moment.

    And further down,

    The working class can kiss my arse
    I’ve got the foreman’s job at last
    The system I’ll no more resist
    I’m going to be a capitalist


    I think there is a whole essay on the symbolism of the colour red .


    Alas the ‘red socks’ was a metaphor for my working class dig at Architects and the like.
    Some chips take a little longer to Fry!
    And yes I am studying to be a Landscape Architect, thus the enjoyment of the above lyrics.

    I have put the pictures on a Gallery on the web, but i think i should ask if its ok to publish the link, over to you Tom, OK or not?

  17. Tom Turner Post author

    Grant: yes, it is fine to publish links – in general and on this particular website.
    Re digging at professionals, we all need it. I am tireless in quoting this remark from capitalism’s leading theorist: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Adam Smith

  18. Grant

    Cheers Tom,

    Adam Smith i am familiar with, and yes the quote sums up perfectly the Wall between Trade and Profession. A can of worms that has been ignored for too long. The only answer that i can see is going back to the old system of the Professions having to come through trade first. i.e. 5 year apprentice ship on the the tools, then Academia. The Japanese do it in their ‘Just in time’ theory i.e. management have to work on the shop floor, ideas are horizontal not vertical as in a Hierarchical system. But until our education system starts to recognise the equal value of trade to profession then it will always be second class. A trades person should be able to take their trade to at least Masters standard. It is now common for Nurses to train to Degree level, so it can be done if the will is there . It has been so for many years in Germany. Often Architects feel threatened by trade and trade feel resentful to profession, this is my experience.

    I read your ‘City is Landscape’ and for me (rough hands) it was a breath of fresh air and very honest.

    Anyway enough of my blather, link for you and Christine. the pictures were taken on an iphone, some stitched together and all with some manipulation to get the best out of what i had to hand.

    i uploaded them to full quality so use the download option if any appeal.


  19. Tom Turner Post author

    Two points
    (1) technical/craft education has been absurdly undervalued in the UK, partly for the egalitarian reason that everyone should have ‘the chance of going to university’. Apart fom the madness of thinking that you can teach everything in an academic context, there is the snobbish unrealism of thinking that less talented people should do ‘something vocational’ and more talented people ‘something academic’. I believe that making things requires talents of the highest order and that the careers advisers who advise anyone who can to follow their A level subjects at university should be ‘defrocked’. You are right that technical education has been better in Germany than in England, at least since the mid-nineteenth century. The ‘Labour’ party thought the way to evade ‘labour’ was to have all chiefs and no injuns. It was and is wrong, though a few steps in the right direction are taken from time to time.
    (2) James Watt, of steam engine fame, was as clever with his hands as with his head, but was denied membership of the craft guilds because he had not ‘served’ an apprenticeship. It is probably the case that the professions learned all they know about restrictive practices from the medieval guilds (just as ‘the car dealers took over where the horse traders left off’). Things change – but do they get better?

  20. Grant

    Tom, is there an underlying fear of an educated (in trade as well as academia) working class? if trade has real value,then the costs would go up, how many dinner parties go on moaning about the price of a plumber and then praise the polish builder for working So hard, when what they are really saying is i don’t want to pay the rates of apprenticed served tradesman, and if i can get the job cheaper then i will no matter the quality/skill. People are people where ever they come from, good, bad, and lazy.
    Look how long it was before the peasants even had the opportunity to read let alone lose the chains of serfdom (every cloud has a silver lining, black death, shortage of Labour , peasant uprising).
    Thank God for (i think it was Labour policy) the previous government who bought in the opportunity for people like myself, whose family didn’t even consider University foe me. Get a job was the manta. If i (like so many mature students) qualify i will be the only one in 2 large families to have done so. But this leads to your all chiefs ,no Injuns. So its only a short term answer until a degree becomes like the paper you wrap your chips in. So there must be a way of levelling the academia/trade playing field. But hey if in 10 years time i have a practice and i need employee’s, will the spirit of self interest take over?

    I know many Bricklayers/Carpenters/Plasterers, who intellectually are so far ahead of most of us that its a crime that they are not educators. Unfortunately its like the old joke (that i won’t repeat here) that shows how we label people by what they do first. So to the other students i am ‘Grant the Builder’, even though there is no such trade, (i am b/layer) and i have been designing and building gardens for twenty years. The Label sticks.

    More chips than a chip shop!!

    2)I can understand why, for once ‘they’ wanted something and the power of having the keys must of gone their heads, as the good book says, what ever you sow you reap. So the chains have to be broken, both ways. I think if the trade guild’s of today had any power and they used it like the professional bodies do, there would be a middle England uprising, questions in parliament. And the familiar English quashing of a peasants uprising. I have friend who is a Fireman, who is going on Strike, i bet you the ‘Daily Fascist’ won’t print the truth of what’s going on, because it serves them and their readers to stay in their selfish little England world,. Glad i got that off my chest.

    But I am here to learn and be challenged so all my philosophy is written in Pencil!

    Right I will now get on with my VAT return, but look forward to your reply


    p.s i am your classic dyslexic, so please excuse dodgy grammar, its not for want of trying.
    p.p.s sorry to go off subject

  21. Tom Turner Post author

    Good news: many well-known designers are dyslexic. See list of famous dyslexics. It facilitates the lateral thinking upon which good design depends. I hope you will become a special kind of designer who draws upon your knowledge of brickwork. And if you have any spare time, I recommend evening classes in sculpture.
    I don’t know about average salaries, but I have often read about holders of masters degrees in this and that giving it up because they can earn more as a plumber.

  22. Christine

    Well Grant, thankyou for the pictures, all I say about all that is I am very very disappointed that there are no pictures of people wearing red socks to be had.

    So here is one to inspire students when visiting interesting pavillions to adopt appropriate dress… [ ]

    I had trouble finding a good male example…but there is hope for the next generation!
    [ ]

    It would great to think that everyone is free to choose what they want to do ‘when they grow up’ but I guess that is still far from always the situation.

  23. Grant

    Christine, very funny. I am sure Robert Holden has a few pairs! That man is a star.

    As a friend of mine say’s “the victory is so much sweeter, when your the underdog”


    The plumbers wage is a bit of an Urban myth, its more about running a plumbing agency i.e. Pimlico Plumbers. But if you do the hours and face up to the fact that you get out what you put in , no passengers. Like the Construction Industries in general, self employed , no holiday pay, no sickness, no redundancy, no cancellation fee’s. The initial rates seem good but when you take in account the other losses compared to PAYE, its a bit wild west. But you get used to it. And you do have some control over your destiny!

    Lateral, read out with the fairies in my case. Like the sculpture idea, i was offered an apprenticeship at Canterbury Cathedral, but decided it was to specific as a trade/skill, and in hindsight i think (for me at least) i was right. Note brickwork is a structural trade so we learn/do surveying, materiality, setting out, drainage (pre plastic) all of these where perfect for my venturing into Gardens.

    What is this Spare time you speak of?

  24. Tom Turner Post author

    I am sorry to hear about plumber’s pay and guess the figures at the back of my mind relate to funded research students rather than teachers.
    ‘Spare time’ is something I had a lot of until I was about 25 – which is when I last did one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done: sculpture evening classes.

  25. Christine

    It is great to see Robert Holden is involved in a number of organisations promoting landscape architecture including the European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools [ ] and the Le Notre Thematic Network in Landscape Architecture [ ].

    They both look like amazing organisational resources for students and the profession!

    Grant, Robert Holden sounds as if he deserves your admiration (red socks or not).


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