Wednesday, 17 July 2013


'If you can imagine trying to build a cloud out of sticks, this is it', 

Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times.

Pavilion, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park (c) Danica Kus

Fujimoto, at 41 the youngest architect ever to design the Serpentine Pavilion, has created a brilliant, flexible, multi-purpose social space, protecting visitors as they walk in yet allowing them to remain part of the landscape.  It's built of simple cubes made of fine white-painted steel bars and glass surfaces, so that you can sit or climb stepped terraces to overlook Hyde Park, or dance, or do tai chi or sunbathe. There's a cafe inside. The overall footprint is 350 square metres.

The building is full of paradoxes: it's neither transparent nor opaque; it's abstract yet organic; its still, calm,  crisp regular cubes move to make a different pattern at the turn of your head; it's like an etching set against verdant green grass and a vivid blue sky. There are even transparent discs at the top which moderate the sun so that you can choose to sit in a space which is neither sun nor shade. 

Every year the Serpentine Gallery commissions the building of a temporary Pavilion. Past designers include Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei (2012), Frank Gehry (2008), the late Oscar Niemeyer (2003) and Zaha Hadid (2000).Some works are more memorable than others. The one I've liked best so far was in 2006. I wrote at the time:
Rem Koolhaas designed the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion with structural designer Cecil Balmond. The ovoid inflatable canopy seems to float over the trees & lawns. We first saw it looking like a giant setting moon when we were walking beside the Serpentine. When we reached it we found below a walled enclosure both a Maison Blanc café selling pastries & organic lemonade - & a forum for talks & screenings. Chairs & tables are made of black compressed cubes & rectangles which sit on a sparkly aluminium floor & can easily be placed in any sequence. Small babies lie on their backs & kick, solitary young men sprawl, small children clamber. Sam (my grandson) immediately detected the springiness of a floor which is suspended about a foot above the ground.  As the weather was beautiful the canopy was raised into the air. A dado-like strip of blue sky encircled us. We went on to see Thomas Demand’s brilliant exhibition inside the Gallery

2006 is past. Don't miss 2013. 

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