Serpentine Pavilions are prestigious summer pavilion commissions awarded to leading architects that have not completed a building in England at the time of the Gallery’s invitation. Located on the grounds of the Serpentine Art Galleries in Hyde Park, these are open to visitors for three months, before being moved to a permanent location.
These pavilions are realized within a limited budget and completed in six months and intend to provide a multi-purpose social and gathering space. Since its inception in 2000, the designs showcased as the pavilions have served as inspiration for architects and students globally.
Here are 10 Noteworthy Designs for the Serpentine Pavilion presented at the galleries:
1. Toyo Ito | Serpentine Pavilions
Toyo Ito’s (2002) design initially appears as a random pattern of opaque and transparent triangles that form the skin of the pavilion. However, a logic soon emerges that is derived from the algorithm of a cube that expanded as it rotated. These motions of transparency and translucency gave a sense of infinitely repeated motion, further facilitated by the continuation of the pattern on the floor by Ito.
2. Herzog and De Meuron, Ai Weiwei
Herzog and De Meuron (2012) collaborated with Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei for their pavilion. The pavilion just stands 1.5m above the ground, as the base descends below the level of the lawn, revealing the remains of the foundations of previous pavilions built on the same site. Cork was used as the primary material to line the insides, as well as the 12 primary columns that represent the 12 pavilions built until that point. The roof of the structure is formed by a circular pool that lightly floats above the ground and reflects the sky.
Frida Escobedo’s (2019) Pavilion draws inspiration from Mexican residential architecture characterized by courtyards. Escobedo constructs multiple ‘celosias’ – a breeze block wall that allows breeze and light to filter in – to frame these courtyards into the pavilion. These celosias are created using undulated concrete roof tile arranged in an alternating pattern forming decorative corners. The pavilion also features a curved mirrored ceiling and pool of water that create a series of distorted reflections.
The spinning top-shaped pavilion by Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen (2007) is based on the principle of a winding ramp to explore the idea of vertical circulation within a single space. The ramp is covered with a series of white louvers made of twisted white cords that allow visitors a view of the park as they walk up the ramp. The ramp leads visitors into a central auditorium and then continues onto a viewing platform at the top. This central well made of tiered seats that descend creating a different dynamic space for people to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee.
5. Peter Zumthor | Serpentine Pavilions
Peter Zumthor’s (2011) Pavilion focuses on using materials that are significant to the design and aids in emphasizing the role that senses and emotions play in the architectural experience. The concept ‘contemplative room, a garden within a garden’ is realized as a planted garden enclosed within a dark structure. The visitors transition from the lawn into a tight circulating corridor that opens to the interior space where they can sit, walk and observe the flowers. The serenity creates a memorable and intense experience – full of memory and time.
6. Sou Fujimoto
Sou Fujimoto’s (2013) Pavilion also nicknamed ‘the cloud’ owing to its form and its lightness. The 40 cm steel grid module varies in density that frames selective views of the park, whereas transparent polycarbonate circles provide shelter from the rain while reflecting sunlight. This grid lattice parts in the centre to create an open area for a café within the pavilion. The structure is strategically broken to allow access to visitors, generating different uses within the pavilion.
Japanese Architects SANAA’s (2009) design for the Pavilion features an undulating aluminum canopy that floats atop a delicate column structure. It creates a series of connecting spaces in the park that reflect the trees, the ground, and the sky. The pavilion merged into the landscape seamlessly and allowed free movement as the pavilion was entirely permeable, with transparent acrylic walls only in one part for an enclosed café and auditorium space.
SelgasCano (2015) designed a colorful plastic-wrapped structure as their imagination for the Pavilion. Using double layered and durable plastic wrapped around a series of metal arches, the pavilion is inspired by the multi-layered and chaotic network of the London Underground. The pavilion allows entry through various openings, some of which are discrete. These entries create specific journeys through the pavilions characterised by colour, lights, and irregular shapes to the central open space that can host various events and performances.
9. Bjarke Ingels
Bjarke Ingels’s (2016) design is a simple wall that appears to have been unzipped to reveal a curving, cavernous interior space built out of transparent blocks. The curving silhouette reveals itself from an angular view, and the shifting transparencies become evident from a changing perspective. The hollow fiberglass rectangles essentially transform the skin into a scalable shelf-like structure that establishes its own identity within the park.
10. Francis Kéré | Serpentine Pavilions
Francis Kéré (2017) was conceived as a microcosmos – a community structure – that fuses cultural references from Kéré’s home town in Burkina Faso with Kensington Gardens in London. The pavilion features a large wooden roof mimicking the canopy of a tree that can funnel in water to a central oculus creating a spectacular waterfall. A curving indigo wall made of triangular wood section encloses the pavilion, arranged to bring in controlled transparency. Blue is a momentous colour in the Architect’s heritage and therefore is the primary hue of the pavilion.