BIG’s bold 2016 Serpentine Pavilion
Books & Exhibitions
Some 1,802 modular boxes of equal proportions form both the structure and envelope of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens. The work of the much acclaimed Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), it forms a dramatic vista as you approach the latest annual temporary summer architectural installation in London’s Hyde Park. ‘This is a small structure in a gigantic park,’ mused the founder Bjarke Ingels at the unveiling of the building earlier this week on an equally dramatic English summer’s day as the sky turned abruptly from bright blue to darkness and thunderstorms.
These lightweight fibreglass frames are stacked on top of one another and joined by aluminium extrusions transferring the load from box to box for what Ingels calls an ‘unzipped wall’. He explains: ‘This unzipping of the wall turns the line into a surface, transforming the wall into a space’ so the promise is for the complex three-dimensional space it reveals to be explored in new and exciting ways.
Much like the 15 pavilions that came before this, BIG’s installation will house park goers by day, and in the evenings transform into a space for talks and debates on visual culture in Park Nights. ‘It embodies multiple aspects that are often perceived as opposites,’ says the architect, ‘a structure that is free-form yet rigorous, modular yet sculptural, both transparent and opaque, both solid box and blob.’ In October, when the building is dismantled, these prefabricated modular boxes will find new lives elsewhere in different forms and shapes.
The Serpentine Pavilion scheme is hugely exciting. Every year since 2000 the team commissions an international architect to construct a temporary building in whatever material they see fit, and the structure remains in the park from June to October. Past projects have seen buildings erected using plastic, stone, even cork… and it is always fascinating to see how they age, how they withstand the unpredictable English summer, how they live in Hyde Park, as well as how the public responds to them. After all, these are not decorative art installations, but buildings that are there to be experienced.
The brainchild of Julia Peyton-Jones and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, the ideology behind the programme is to introduce contemporary architecture to a wider audience in its three-dimensional form as opposed to drawings, and in a public space rather than in an exhibition hall. This year BIG is joined by four other international architects – Kunlé Adeyemi, Barkow Leibinger, Yona Friedman, Asif Khan – tasked to respond to the nearby Queen Caroline’s Temple, a neo-classical modest summer house, with very different responses. Read more about these proposals here.
‘There should be no end to experimentation,’ Hans Ulrich Obrist told us at the unveiling – words that really resonate with us here at Spinach. He was quoting the late Zaha Hadid who was the first architect to offer her design sixteen years ago, years before she had created an actual building in the UK. The five chosen architects this year also haven’t completed a permanent structure in the UK making this a wonderful way of experiencing their varied work in real life.
The Serpentine Pavilion will be in Kensington Gardens Hyde Park until 9 October.