Building is underway at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, the hip new gallery space in Bruton planned for 2014 and Piet Oudolf, arguably the world’s premier landscape designer has begun creating an inspirational meadow garden. Country Calling caught up with him.
Oudolf is famed for creating swathes of colour in perennials and long grasses, a wild, untamed look which is actually highly cultivated. His is a full blown romantic vision which has won him fans across the globe and at H&WS he's got plenty of scope to indulge his passion for naturalistic planting. View of Wisley Garden, Royal Horticultural Society, Woking: by Piet Oudolf When he’s flying all over the world (currently working in New York, France and Sweden) why did he choose this corner of the West Country? 'To me this is an interesting project because it's on a larger scale and I'm used to working on a big scale. And I like working with the client (Hauser & Wirth). The planting is going to fit with the content of the galleries, reflecting contemporary art and so it will not be at all formal.' In the flesh Piet Oudolf is quietly spoken and laid-back, a relaxed attitude which clearly translates into his garden design. ‘Gardening works best when you don’t think too much about when things are going to happen and are happy with what you get,’ he says. He is famous for embracing the death of plants as much as new life and says the H&WS garden will be full of contrasts, 'little moments of bright colour while other plants will be in death." "Dying plants can be just as much a part of the garden as the flowering ones. It is all about getting a balance,' he says. The big draw will be his meadow garden which will be surrounded by tall planting on the outside and alive with tall grasses and groupings of favourite plants in deep reds and purples. As with all Oudolf's work, it will be both spectacular and transporting and is expected to attract as many visitors as the art galleries.
Both the Il Giardino delle Vergini created by Oudolf for the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010 and New York's now famous High Line (both pictured below) planted along the City's disused railway track can give us a feeling for what to expect from the designer's Bruton garden. Oudolf is widely thought of as the godfather of the New Perennial Movement, honed in the 1990s. His ever evolving gardens feature perennial plants and grasses laid out in naturalistic drifts that sway in the wind with rich bursts of colour throughout the seasons. Il Giardino delle Vergini, Venice by Piet Oudolf The High Line, New York by Piet Outdolf The harmony between art, architecture and horticulture is fundamental to the project says H&WS director Alice Workman, ‘Some people will come for the garden and will discover contemporary art, others will come for the art and discover the garden and then some will come for the food. It’s going to be a great combination.’ Work has already begun on the artistic programme for launch and is likely to include some of H&W’s best known artists – Louise Bourgeois, Martin Creed, Ron Mueck, Pipilotti Rist among them. There will be a major exhibition every 6 months or so but Workman says the idea is to keep a spread of artists throughout the galleries ensuring the widest possible access to contemporary art. First and foremost, H&WS is planned as an education centre bringing cutting edge art to the West Country. Local art teachers will be invited to private views and given the chance to meet H&W artists to further their own understanding. At the end of last year Hauser & Wirth Somerset was granted planning permission for the project and work has already begun to renovate the beautiful but entirely dilapidated farm house. At the Chapel has also started to work on the restaurant concept which, while strictly under wraps, is likely to be very different from its successful formula on Bruton high street. With ground-breaking art, architecture, gardening and food, Hauser & Wirth Somerset promises to be extraordinary. Roll on 2014.