Diébédo Francis Kéré wins Serpentine Pavilion 2017 project

A pavilion that mimics a grand tree and offers a spectacular waterfall has won the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion project. The Serpentine Gallery’s artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO Yana Peel have named architect Diébédo Francis Kéré the latest designer for the annual project. The award-winning architect, who leads Kéré Architecture in Berlin, will bring his characteristic sense of light and life to Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park when he constructs his temporary structure later in the year to be enjoyed by the public during the summer months.

Kéré is committed to socially engaged and ecological designs. Here he is inspired by the tree that serves as a central meeting point in his childhood village Gando, Burkina Faso where in 2004 he received the Aga Kahn Award for Architecture for his primary school design.

For Kensington, Kéré has designed a responsive pavilion that seeks to connect its visitors to nature and to one another. It also engages with our unpredictable summer climate. A central steel framework supports the expansive roof to mimics a tree’s canopy, allowing air to circulate freely whilst offering visitors shelter.

There are four planned entry points with an open-air courtyard in the centre for visitors to sit and relax during sunny days. In the case of rain, an oculus funnels any water that collects on the roof into a spectacular waterfall effect, before it is evacuated through a drainage system in the floor for later use in irrigating the park. The wooden roof and wall system act as solar shading, creating pools of dappled shadows by day whilst at night the walls become a source of illumination as small perforations twinkle with the movement and activity from inside.

‘Every path and tree, and even the Serpentine lake, were all carefully designed,’ says Kéré. ‘I am fascinated by how this artificial landscape offered a new way for people in the city to experience nature. In Burkina Faso, I am accustomed to being confronted with climate and natural landscape as a harsh reality. For this reason, I was interested in how my contribution to this Royal Park could not only enhance the visitor’s experience of nature, but also provoke a new way for people to connect with each other.’

Kéré’s Serpentine Pavilion will host a programme of events exploring questions of community and rights to the city, as well as the continuation of Park Nights, the Serpentine’s public performance series.

Kéré’s design follows Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), whose ‘unzipped wall’ structure was visited by more than 250,000 people in 2016, making it one of the most popular pavilions to date. He will be the seventeenth architect take part in this inspired public art project that launched in 2000.

Read about the previous Serpentine Pavilions here

Serpentine Pavilion 2017 will be at Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, London from 10 June – 9 October

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BIG’s Serpentine Pavilion and summer houses

There is a delicate neo-classical building on a little hill in the middle of Kensington Gardens nestled in thick grass and wild flowers and with views over the Long Water. You can see Henry Moore’s Arch across the water from here. I often run in Kensington Gardens stopping briefly by this romantic summer house. There is an old tree to its right – the trunk is a good size and perfect for a hand stand. Upside-down, the summer house is even more intriguing. The light from here is very special… in all seasons.

Queen Caroline’s Temple was designed in 1735 by William Kent for Queen Caroline who was responsible for the shape of the gardens as they are now. Some of the graffiti dates back to 1821 when Hyde Park was first opened to the public. Up until this week I had no clue as to the history of this summer house and in many ways the mystique had added to the romance. Now, the building is at the heart of the annual Serpentine Pavilion project which has grown from one commissioned temporary installation to five. This summer Hyde Park has transformed into a feast of architectural dialogue. But more on the summer house later.

The star of the Serpentine Pavilion is the main structure by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) – an exciting practice with offices in Copenhagen, New York and from this week London with a strong focus on sustainability and finding new solutions for urban living. We have reported extensively on BIG in the past.

For the 2016 Serpentine project, some 1,802 modular boxes of equal proportions form both the structure and envelope creating quite a dramatic vista. ‘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 400 by 500mm 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 fifteen pavilions that came before, 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.

Queen Caroline’s Temple sits a stone’s throw away from BIG’s bold project, and for the second part of the Pavilion project, the organisers have tasked four architects, ranging in age from 36 to 93, to respond to the summer house with very different answers.

Kunlé Adeyemi‘s is a classic summer house – a space for shelter. The form is an inverse replica of Queen Caroline’s that plays tribute to the original building’s robust form, space and material, says the Nigerian architect.

Barkow Leibinger chose to work with a second building William Kent had designed for Queen Caroline that no longer exists. It had been erected at the top of the hill nearby and would rotate 360-degrees so viewers could survey Kensington Gardens and the lake. Here the American/German firm has created a structure made of loops with a series of undulating structural bands as a nod to this vanished second summer house.

Elsewhere, Yona Friedman’s is a maze of modular wireframes expanding on the Hungarian/French architects La Ville Spatiale 1950s project. Here, the structure is a ‘space-chain’, which constitutes a fragment of a larger grid structure.

Lastly, the youngest of the group, London-based Asif Khan’s project is a secluded courtyard that reflects sunlight. He explains: ‘Kent aligned the temple towards the direction of the rising sun on 1 March 1683, Queen Caroline’s birthday.’ And his polished metal platform and roof aim to provide an intimate experience of this moment in history.

‘There should be no end to experimentation,’ says the Serpentine Pavilion co-founder Hans Ulrich Obrist, quoting the late Zaha Hadid who was the first architect to offer her pavilion design sixteen years ago, years before she had created an actual building in the UK.

The Serpentine Pavilion scheme is hugely exciting. Since 2000, every year the team commissions an international architect to construct a temporary building in whatever material they see fit – 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.

Nargess Banks

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 is at Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, London from 10 June – 9 October

Read about the previous Serpentine Gallery Pavilions here.

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Serpentine Pavilion 2015 by Selgascano

A series of colourful plastic cocoons lighten up Hyde Park on this unseasonably cold, wet summer’s day. They invite us to walk in and wander around the psychedelic maze. This is the Serpentine Pavilion as envisaged by Madrid-based architect Selgascano. And today it provides a much-needed refuge from the downpour.

Sitting here in the central space whilst sipping coffee by Fortnum & Mason who are running the café, I cannot help but smile as delicate, twinkling light filters through from above and around resembling glass-stained window. This has been achieved through working with a double-layered shell that is made of opaque and translucent fluorine-based plastic in multiple colours.

‘Design needs to connect with nature and feel part of the landscape,’ says Selgascano. The architect wanted to create a concept that offered a visitor experience. The firm set out to encourage the public to experience architecture through simple elements – ‘structure, light, transparency, shadow, lightness, form, sensitivity, change, surprise, colour and material’.

The temporary structure consists of a series of connected spaces of varied sizes. The spatial qualities of the Pavilion only unfold when accessing the structure and being immersed within it. Selgascano says: ‘Each entrance allows for a specific journey through the space, characterised by colour, light and irregular shapes with surprising volumes.’

The installation marks the 15th anniversary of the annual Serpentine Pavilion series. The series sees an inspirational temporary structure by some of the world’s more exciting architects commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery and constructed in London’s Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park during the summer months. The installation acts as a meeting space during the day, and hosts various cultural events in the evenings.

This is architecture as public art. The idea is for art lovers, park strollers, joggers and tourists alike to engage with conceptual design.

Past projects have included work by starchitects Frank Gehry, Peter Zumthor, Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid. Yet it is often younger practices such as Selgascano and last year’s Smiljan Radic who offer a more inspired journey.

Serpentine Pavilion 2015 is at Kensington Gardens, London from 25 June – 18 October

To celebrate the 15th anniversary, the Serpentine Pavilion is also running Build Your Own Pavilion: Young Architects Competition for children aged eight to 14. To find out more and how to enter visit here.

Nargess Banks

Read about the previous Serpentine Gallery Pavilions here.

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Design Talks is published by Spinach Design

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Serpentine Gallery 89plus Marathon

It is Frieze week, and London has turned into one giant gallery. The annual art fair, which attracts art lovers from around the world, also encourages other galleries around the capital city to create something unique for this week. This includes the Serpentine Galleries – that now includes the Sackler – which will be hosting 89plus Marathon over two days (18/19 October).

This year’s event focuses on the future and considers how the internet and new social, political and economic networks are changing the world as we know it. Leading artists, writers, musicians, scientists, entrepreneurs and political activists – born in or after 1989, hence the name – will come together with world-renowned figures of all generations for a weekend of performances, screenings and debates. It will be the first major public event to take place in the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery.

89plus Marathon will investigate whether new technologies can lead to a global dialogue that will engender difference rather than homogeneity; the effect of growing up during a global economic crisis; how the internet has enabled new forms of political protest and, a question that runs as a motif throughout, who is responsible for the future…

The 89plus Marathon stage will be designed by artist Amalia Ulman. This will be the eighth Festival of Ideas, conceived by the co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist, originally inspired by the annual Pavilion commission.

Among the sixty participants confirmed are Halil Altindere, whose video Wonderland was a highlight of the 13th Istanbul Biennial; Generation X author and Marathon veteran Douglas Coupland; programmer and entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio, who at the age of 17 sold his search optimisation tool Summly for an estimated $30 million; former member of Anonymous and LulzSec groups Jake Davis; trend forecasting group K-HOLE; rapper, producer and Youtube phenomenon Le1f; Icelandic information freedom activist Smári McCarthy; writer and curator Kevin McGarry; artist Felix Melia, who will be experimenting with social media to create and stream a film live at the Marathon; neuroscientist Kathryn Mills, who will talk about the effect of the internet on the adolescent brain; Zachary Sims, founder and CEO of Codecademy and advocate for lessons in computer science and programming as a core part of the school curriculum; and artist Hito Steyerl, one of the most influential thinkers on digital culture.

For more information visit the Serpentine Gallery.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read our previous coverage of Serpentine exhibitions here.

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Serpentine Sackler Gallery by Zaha Hadid

This is the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Buried in London’s Hyde Park, in Kensington Gardens, the building breaths new life into The Magazine, a former 1805 gunpowder store. It is also a short walking distance from its parent space, the Serpentine Gallery.

The Magazine was a quite neoclassical building. It used to blend in with the park’s wildlife. I cannot recall having paid much attention to it on my many walks through the park – that is until now. Hadid’s signature bold, curvaceous design (she is often refereed to as the ‘mistress of the curve’) begs to be noticed. The wave like white structure bursts out of the western side of the unassuming gunpowder building, forming the roof that houses the café, restaurant and social space whilst the main building exhibits art.

The inaugural exhibition is a site-specific installation by Adrián Villar Rojas. Here the young Argentinean artist has tested the limits of clay to create an apparently fossilised world of ruins and ancient monuments that play with the concept of time, history, modernity and the future – much like Hadid’s building. It is an intriguing exhibition, and definitely worth visiting.

The Sackler project was the brainchild of Julia Peyton-Jones, co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, who also championed the gallery’s annual temporary pavilions. Back in 2000 she commissioned Hadid to build a temporary structure for the gallery’s annual gala. The scheme proved to be so popular that it resulted in the yearly commission of pioneering architects to design and build temporary pavilions.

The Serpentine itself may be small in size, yet it has become the sixth most visited public art institutions in the capital, championing new ideas in contemporary arts since it opened in 1970. Together with the Serpentine Pavilion projects, and now Sackler they have transformed this glorious and quite park into a live, and free exhibition space. This is proper public art.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks


Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | www.d-talks.com | Bookshopwww.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas