LONDON – The Serpentine Gallery, located in London’s Kensigton Gardens, began commissioning a temporary pavilion in 2000. Since then, the structure’s six-month stint in the park has become an annual event. Originally the commission was awarded to architects that have not yet built in Great Britain, though this tradition was broken in 2012 when Herzog & de Meuron designed the pavilion with Ai Weiwei. Smiljan Radic, who built most of his work in his native Chile, was asked to deliver this year’s design.
‘The Serpentine Pavilion is a part of the history of small romantic constructions seen in parks or large gardens, the so-called follies, which were hugely popular from the end of the sixteenth century to the start of the nineteenth,’ Radic says. Usually combining a well-mannered brand of minimalism with primeval, naturalistic references, the architect’s latest structure draws mainly on the latter.
The base, comprised of standing stones set within an undulating landscape could be an allusion to Britain’s most famous prehistoric monument, the Stonehenge, though they could just as easily refer to mankind’s common prehistoric beginnings. Hovering above is a large, translucent toroid that houses an outdoor café, its form directly inspired by Radic’s earlier conceptual proposal called the Selfish Giant’s Castle. The tears in the delicate fibreglass fabric provide the pavilion’s visitors with views across the empty patio and to the outside.
This year’s pavilion can be read as an ancient, constructed, ruin upon which the architect – informed by his own aesthetic sensibilities – had placed an ephemeral object. All things considered and despite having an actual function, this is a folly in the best possible sense the word.
Photos courtesy of the Serpentine Gallery