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Thursday, 15 January 2015

A Norfolk garden inspired by Mies Van de Rohe's 1929 Barcelona Pavilion

By At Home Principal Designer, Hugh Jamieson

The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies Van der Rohe,
with Georg Kolbe's sculpture 'Alba'
I was looking for inspiration for a small area of garden on a project in the genteel seaside town of Sheringham in north Norfolk. We had transformed a modest bungalow into a smart, contemporary dwelling – but the garden remained untouched.

I'd recently visited The Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, and fell in love with its serene simplicity, and especially the way the inside space flowed seamlessly into the outside. With the Sheringham project in mind, I could imagine large glass doors folding back onto a similarly serene but useful outdoor living area. Just add a rill of gently flowing water and fabulous night time lighting to create a gorgeous ambience.

Serene and sunny: The finished garden area on the Sheringham project.
The rill provides the gentle movement of water with stunning
night time lighting.
Mies Van de Rohe’s German Pavilion was built for the 1929 International Exposition as ‘a zone of tranquility’ for the weary visitor; the architecture itself was the exhibit. After the exposition the German government couldn’t sell it so it was torn down, not even a year after completion, the materials sold to cover costs.

This travesty was realised in the 1960s; luckily there were many original photos and the pavilion was faithfully recreated, using the same extravagant materials such as marble and travertine and Mies Van der Rohe's ideal of modernity expressed through rigorous geometry, precision and clarity, was brought into being once more. The curves of Georg Kolbe’s sculpture ‘Alba’ was the only contrast to the geometric purity of the building.

This was exactly the feel I wanted for the Sheringham project – a mix of modern and ancient materials used sparingly to create a place of serenity, blurring inside and out.

We created a walled area, providing a sheltered, sunny nook in winter, while in summer the doors could slide open to create a huge inside/outside dining area – perfect for parties and warm evenings. The neutral colours reflect year round light into the building and respect the home's coastal setting.

I have learned much from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Like many of his post World War I contemporaries, he strove for simplicity and order, coining the phrases "less is more" and "God is in the details,” both of which apply to this minimalist 1929 structure – and many At Home Interiors projects too.

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