The unveiling of this years Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, designed by Herzog & de Meuron and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, has taken place under overcast skies and a light drop of rain.
The pavilion constructed mostly from sustainable materials such as cork and stainless steel is formed beneath the Serpentine’s lawn which prompts the viewer to explore the hidden history of previous pavilions. Eleven columns representing each past Pavilion and a twelfth column representing the current structure supports a floating platform roof 1.4 metres above ground. The Pavilion’s interior is clad in cork, the perfect building material chosen for its unique qualities and to echo the excavated earth. The outside of the roof area acts a reflecting pool filled with water, creating a natural melding of the surrounding area.
Taking an archaeological approach, the architects have created a design that inspires visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures. The interior of the building is consistent with Mr Ai’s installation work and classically retains his art’s ethos of form.
Ruth Mackenzie head of the Cultural Olympiad stated to ArtLyst; ” It’s a shame the sun isn’t shining and that there are no ducks on the roof of the pavilion”
Viewing the pavilion from above, on the Serpentine’s balcony, I can see what the designers intended. I look forward to seeing the pool populated by the local park wildlife and the sun’s blinding reflection bouncing off the red brick gallery.
Herzog & de Meuron spoke to the press at the gathering, while Ai Weiwei spoke via a pre-recorded video, as he is not allowed to travel outside of China for political reasons. This team were also responsible for creating the celebrated Beijing National (Birds Nest) Stadium, which was built for the 2008 Olympic Games. They have come together again in London for the Serpentine’s annual commission, presented as part of the London 2012 Festival.
Ai Wewei is a Chinese conceptual artist who also works as an architect, photographer, curator and globally recognised human rights activist. Born in 1957 in Beijing, he began his training at Beijing Film Academy and later continued at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. His work has been exhibited around the world.
Herzog & de Meuron Born in Basel in 1950, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron studied architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) from 1970 to 1975 with Aldo Rossi and Dolf Schnebli. They received their degree in architecture in 1975 and established Herzog & de Meuron in Basel in 1978. The practice has designed a wide range of projects from the small scale of a private home to the large scale of urban design. While many of their projects are highly recognized public facilities, they have also completed several distinguished private projects such as apartment buildings, offices and factories.
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