Serpentine Pavilion by Smiljan Radic

Yesterday saw the unveiling of the much-anticipated 14th Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic. The annual temporary structure in London’s Hyde Park is a highlight of the year, and the latest is one of the most captivating of the recent commissions.

Occupying some 541 square-metres on the lawn of the gallery, the semi-translucent, cylindrical structure almost hovers over large quarry stones that evoke the spirit of Fischli and Weiss’s wonderful Rock on Top of Another Rock (pictured) that sits a few meters away.

The shell-like structure is constructed using paper-thin layers of white fibreglass that look like papier mache and allow a little sunlight to shine through for a warm glow. Inside is hollow with a central courtyard that opens to the sky. There are cut outs in the walls that create jagged framed views of the surrounding Kensington Gardens.

Radic says he sees the park as a symbolic place. ‘For me it is a folly,’ he says of his creation, ‘and the folly is historically a romantic place… a place of extravagance and atmosphere.’

The architect has created an impression of rooms to break up the volume so that visitors can feel ‘at once inside and outside,’ he notes, and simultaneously ‘the sensation of brutalism’. Radic refers to his own work as ‘crude architecture’ – burda in Spanish – for the way the structure feels like layers of masking tape, like its just been roughly put together.

Following the press briefing I venture underneath. It is cosy down here. Sitting by the big, rough foundation stones, with the translucent shell hovering above, I feel transported to a fantasy world. It is easy to see how the architect was inspired by the castle in Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant and by David Hockney’s drawings of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

This is a building that is at once childlike and magical. Radic says, ‘just look at the volume without thinking too much. Just accept it.’

The Serpentine Pavilion is open to the public during its four-month tenure in the park. On selected Friday nights it will also stage the Serpentine’s Park Nights series – eight site-specific events bringing together art, poetry, music, film, literature and theory.

We can’t wait to see it in real life, when mums bring their kids during the day to run around and explore, when tourists stumble across it exploring Hyde Park, and when in the evenings it becomes a social space.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read about the previous Serpentine Gallery Pavilions here.

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