The Garden Guide

Serpentine Gallery Garden

The Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens has a different pavilion each summer and, in good years, the pavilions have gardens. The Gallery also  has a garden area designed by Ian Hamilton Finlay. It is a disc of concrete poetry on which is written the names of all the trees which can be found in Kensington gardens. The garden space was designed by Colvin and Moggridge landscape architects. Tony Walker comments as follows in The mourning for Diana (1999 p.132) 'Ian Hamilton Finlay's sculpture, dedicated to Princess Diana, former patron of the Serpentine Gallery, reworks the eighteenth-century tradition of the garden in ways that evoke meditation and contemplation (Abrioux 1985). The sculpture is comprised of eight stone benches, a tree-plaque and, at the entrance of the Gallery, a large slate disc set in a field of cobbles, inscribed with the names of trees (in both Botanical Latin and English) found in the classic English landscape of Kensington Gardens. The eight benches, each inscribed with pastoral poetry, are arranged in two arcs on a circular mound with Calininia trees. This site recalls a classical grove for retreat, meditation, study, burial. Across the meadow is a handsome horse-chestnut, with a tree-plaque quoting Virgil's Ecologues X in th original Latin on the theme of evening. Hamilton Finlay's linkage of elegiac nature, contemplation, memory, transience (death/evening) and classical references, often in their original Latin, is echoed again, but with contemporary meanings, in the poetic quotation by the philosopher Francis Hutcheson, 1725, which is inscribed in the centre of the entrance circle: 'The beauty of trees, their cool shades and their aptness to conceal from observation, have made groves and woods the usual retreat to those who love solitude, especially to the religious, the pensive, the melancholy, and the amorous.'  

There is a different pavilion in the garden each summer and, very regrettably, very few of them are designed with accompanying gardens. Everybody knows that indoor space and outdoor space should be designed together so the reason for the omission is mysterious.
In 2012 the Zaha Hadid designed  Serpentine Sackler Gallery, on the north side of the bridge over the Serpentine. As shown on the architects model, it has a disappointing lack of a garden.

The Serpentine Gallery Garden is on the London Gardens Walk and included in the eBook guide to the London Gardens Walk

Serpentine Sackler Gallery by Zaha Hadid Architects © Zaha Hadid Architects

Serpentine Gallery, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens, London, Greater London, England

Visit the Serpentine Gallery Garden website

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