The spring and summer months see pavilions a plenty pop up outside galleries and museums across the globe. The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, which opens Friday June 10, is always a standout, especially this year with “it” architect Bjarke Ingels at the helm.
The BIG founder engages the grounds of Kensington Gardens with his composition of “unzipped bricks.” Appearing to unzip or peel open two sides of the same wall, the pavilion creates a pass-through down the centre where its modular construction can be fully appreciated.
The oversized fibreglass blocks are hollow and when stacked, form a graphic study in light and shadow. Sunlight streams through the translucent resin of the fibreglass, adding a serene lightness to the core.
From one side, the pavilion is a solid, flat plane, a perfect rectangle, but from another, a sloping wall emerges, with the friendly wood-floored interior accessed from the sides. Its effect is staying, having the permanence of Ingels’ larger buildings.
“We have attempted to design a structure that embodies multiple aspects that are often perceived as opposites: a structure that is free-form yet rigorous; modular yet sculptural; both transparent and opaque; both solid box and blob,” says Ingels.
During the day, the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is a café. In the evenings, it hosts Park Nights, the gallery’s program of performances by musicians, writers, dancers and filmmakers.
Participating artists are asked to design their live works specifically for that year’s pavilion. It is the gallery’s hope that the works serve as new and enthralling ways to experience architecture.
BIG’s pavilion is the star of the Serpentine Gallery’s annual summer architecture series, which, for 2016, has commissioned four additional firms to each contribute a satellite pavilion of sorts.
Yona Friedman, Asif Khan, Barkow Leibinger and Kunlé Adeyemi have each built 25-square-metre summer houses that respond to Queen Caroline’s Temple – an 18th century folly across the meadow from the Serpentine Pavilion. Like Ingels, the four firms meet the gallery’s criteria of not yet having created a permanent building in England.