It’s been 13 years since Zaha Hadid realized her pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery, inaugurating the annual spectacle and celebrating the completion of her first, albeit temporary, building in Britain. Now, she has returned to the gallery to create an extension for its Sackler building – an old gunpowder depot that has been transformed into the satellite for the Serpentine, only a five minute walk away. The project also happens to be her first permanent built work in central London.
Unveiled at the end of September, the glazed extension strikes a pose that only Hadid, with her longtime partner, Patrik Schumacher, could have choreographed. It’s their first permanent tensile structure, a form her studio has spent years studying. The undulating roof consists of three layers: glass fibre textile, multi-foil insulation and glass cloth coated in silicone. It is stretched to connect to a steel frame clad in fibre-reinforced polymer panels spray-painted white.
It dramatically dips down to the ground in the front and back, juts out to the west, and hovers above the existing building’s brick wall to the east. A curved envelope of laminated, double-glazed walls encloses the space and allows light to pour in from all sides. More light is funnelled in via five steel concave columns that puncture the roof with oculi openings. Only a kitchen and cantilevered bar are fixed fixtures here, as the interior is designed to be flexible, accommodating such social events as a 120-person dinner.
The sculptural roof is anything but quiet. And given her repertoire (including the new cultural centre in Azerbaijan and the national stadium she has designed for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics), who would expect it to be? “I don’t make nice little buildings,” Hadid recently told The Guardian. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery extension may be pint-sized compared to her other works, but it’s just as assertive.