Piet Oudolf
Open Field

Past Exhibition 15 Jul – 5 Oct 2014 Somerset


Piet Oudolf is one of the most significant and acclaimed landscape designers in the world today. Hauser & Wirth Somerset is delighted to unveil an exhibition of Oudolf’s drawings. Shown together for the first time, these preparatory designs reveal the creative processes and artistic vision behind some of Oudolf’s most influential and innovative projects in the UK and further afield, including commissions for The High Line in New York and the Serpentine Gallery in London, as well as his garden for Hauser & Wirth Somerset, which will be open to the public from 14 September 2014.

Hand drawn, Oudolf’s planting designs are composed of layer upon layer of symbols, notation, blocks of colour and patchwork shadings, that each correspond to different plant combinations. At the heart of Oudolf’s garden designs lies an intimate knowledge of plants, and careful consideration of how plants relate to one another and behave in different situations.

Oudolf is a leading figure in the New Perennial movement; his projects are characterised by a strong pictorial relationship to a garden’s composition and layout. Inspired by art, nature and time, Oudolf’s gardens are achieved through areas of naturalistic planting, using swathes of perennials and grasses combined with structured pathways, shrubs and trees.

Oudolf’s design for Hauser & Wirth Somerset includes a large perennial meadow to the north of the farmyard and new gallery buildings. Encompassing the 1.5 acre meadow, Oudolf’s garden contains over 26,000 herbaceous perennials. Carefully shaped and planted, the garden echoes the tradition of classical gardens, but the variety of species and combination of plants create looseness, softening the formality of its appearance. Wide canopied trees will be planted between the gallery and garden to frame the view of the garden for visitors as they leave the buildings. The surrounding hedges provide a sense of enclosure, whilst the view of the hills and fields beyond remains visible. A series of paths cut through the vegetation, inviting visitors to wander through the garden. Oudolf’s landscaping design continues around the buildings including the inner cloister courtyard, where the old buildings meet the new.

Oudolf’s extensive oeuvre includes public and private gardens all over the world. The exhibition includes designs for The High Line, New York, one of Oudolf’s most notable projects, a collaboration with landscape architect James Corner, Field Operations. The linear park is built upon an abandoned elevated railway line that runs through Manhattan. Combining minimalism with ecology, this garden was conceived of as a series of interwoven elements that lead visitors along a richly planted path. Oudolf’s design emphasises the narrowness of the park, drawing people and plants closer together within an urban environment.

Other designs include a collaboration between Oudolf and architect Peter Zumthor for the Serpentine Gallery, London, which saw them create Hortus Conclusus – an ‘enclosed garden’ hidden within an enigmatic plain black structure for the 2011 Serpentine Pavillion commission; the Lurie Garden Millennium Park, Chicago, a 2.5-acre roof garden located in downtown Chicago’s Millennium Park; and Oudolf’s design for Wisley, a Royal Horticultural Society garden in Woking, Surrey where the designer interspersed several types of plants and variations to create an innovative interpretation of a traditional Edwardian double border configuration.

About Piet Oudolf

Piet Oudolf was born in 1944 in Haarlem, Netherlands. Since 1982, he has lived and worked in Hummelo, a tiny village in east Netherlands, where he started a nurserywith his wife Anja, to grow perennials. His garden has since become renowned for its radical approach and ideas about planting design. Oudolf also co-founded Future Plants, a company specialising in selecting, growing, breeding and protecting plants for landscaping and public areas.

Oudolf’s recent projects include No.5 Culture Chanel, Paris, France; The High Line, New York NY; Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago IL; Serpentine Gallery, London, England, and the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy.

Oudolf is also a successful author, having co-written numerous books such as; ‘Planting: A New Perspective’ (2013); ‘Landscapes in Landscapes’ (2011); ‘Gardening with Grasses’ (1998); ‘Designing with Plants and Planting Design’ (1999); ‘Dream Plants for the Natural Garden’ (2000); ‘Planting the Natural Garden’ (2003), and ‘Planting Design: Gardens in Time and Space’ (2005).

In his 35-year career, Oudolf has achieved international acclaim, and has recently been awarded an Honorary Fellowship from RIBA for developing radical ideas in Planting Design (2012) and the Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation Award (2013). In October 2013, he was appointed Visiting Professor of Planting Design at the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield.

About Hauser & Wirth Somerset

Hauser & Wirth Somerset is an innovative world-class gallery and arts centre. Accompanied by an extensive education programme and regular artists’ residencies, the gallery will share contemporary art with new audiences and aims to engage the public with art, the countryside and the local community. The centre will also provide resources including an archive, reading room, landscaped garden designed by Piet Oudolf, and a restaurant for locally-sourced food run by At The Chapel, an award-winning restaurant based in Bruton. The project is designed around several renovated listed historical buildings as well as two new purpose built galleries, developed by Luis Laplace of Laplace architects who has worked closely with the gallery and artists on a number of previous projects.

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Installation views

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