Frida Escobedo, a young Mexican architect celebrated for dynamic projects that reactivate urban space has been commissioned to design the Serpentine Pavilion 2018. Harnessing a subtle interplay of light, water and geometry, her atmospheric courtyard-based design draws on both the domestic architecture of Mexico and British materials and history, specifically the Prime Meridian line at London’s Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
“The building is a timepiece that charts the passage of the day.” – Frida Escobedo
Escobedo (b. 1979, Mexico City) is the 18th and youngest architect yet to accept the invitation to design a temporary Pavilion on the Serpentine Gallery lawn in Kensington Gardens. This pioneering commission, which began in 2000 with Zaha Hadid, has presented the first UK structures of some of the biggest names in international architecture. In recent years, it has grown into a hotly anticipated showcase for emerging talent, from Sou Fujimoto of Japan to selgascano of Spain and Bjarke Ingels of Denmark, whose 2016 Pavilion was the most visited architectural and design exhibition in the world. Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO Yana Peel selected this year’s architect, with advisors David Adjaye and Richard Rogers. The Serpentine Pavilion 2018 is sponsored by Goldman Sachs in its fourth year of support.
Escobedo’s Pavilion will take the form of an enclosed courtyard, comprised of two rectangular volumes positioned at an angle. While the outer walls will be aligned with the Serpentine Gallery’s eastern façade, the axis of the internal courtyard will align directly to the north. Internal courtyards are a common feature of Mexican domestic architecture, while the Pavilion’s pivoted axis refers to the Prime Meridian, which was established in 1851 at Greenwich and became the global standard marker of time and geographical distance.
British-made materials will be used in the Pavilion’s construction, chosen for their dark colours and textured surfaces. A celosia – a traditional breeze wall common to Mexican architecture – will here be composed of a lattice of cement roof tiles that diffuse the view out into the park, transforming it into a vibrant blur of greens and blues. Two reflecting elements will emphasise the movement of light and shadow inside the Pavilion over the course of the day. The curved underside of the canopy will be clad with mirrored panels, and a triangular pool cast into the Pavilion floor will trace its boundary directly beneath the edge of the roof, along the north axis of the Meridian. As the sun moves across the sky, reflected and refracted by these features, visitors may feel a heightened awareness of time spent in play, improvisation and contemplation over the summer months.
Escobedo’s prize-winning work in urban reactivation ranges from housing and community centres to hotels and galleries. In 2006, she founded her practice in Mexico City, with significant national projects including the Librería del Fondo Octavio Paz and an extension of La Tallera Siqueiros gallery in Cuernavaca. Her designs have featured at the Venice Architecture Biennale (2012 and 2014), the Lisbon Architecture Triennale (2013), and in San Francisco, London and New York. Recent projects include Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and social housing projects in Guerrero and Saltillo, Mexico. She lectures nationally and internationally, and has won multiple awards and accolades.
Escobedo’s design enhances the Serpentine Pavilion’s reputation as a space of encounter and shared experience, following Francis Kéré’s acclaimed 2017 Pavilion, a bright and airy structure that was inspired by the tree at the heart of his hometown in Burkina Faso and visited by more than 200,000 people.
Frida Escobedo, architect of the 18th Serpentine Pavilion, said: “My design for the Serpentine Pavilion 2018 is a meeting of material and historical inspirations inseparable from the city of London itself and an idea which has been central to our practice from the beginning: the expression of time in architecture through inventive use of everyday materials and simple forms. For the Serpentine Pavilion, we have added the materials of light and shadow, reflection and refraction, turning the building into a timepiece that charts the passage of the day.”
Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director, Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO, Yana Peel, said: “We are delighted to reveal the designs for Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion, which promises to be a place both of deep reflection and dynamic encounter. With this bold interior, Frida draws history into the present and redefines the meaning of public space. We hope visitors of all ages will create their own experiences in the Pavilion this summer as we continue in our aim of bringing the urgency of art and architecture to the widest audiences.”
Frida Escobedo (b. 1979, Mexico City) founded her practice in 2006, after four years as co-director of the architectural firm Perro Rojo. Her award-winning work has focused mainly on reactivating urban spaces that are considered to be residual or forgotten. In 2004 she was awarded the Scholarship for Young Creators by the National Fund for Arts and Culture (FONCA) and in 2008 she was selected by Herzog & de Meuron as one of the architectural studios to participate in the Ordos 100 Project in Inner Mongolia, China. In 2009, she was a winner of the Young Architects Forum, organised by the Architectural League of New York. In 2013, she was selected as one of the three finalists for the Architecture programme at the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative and was nominated for the Arc Vision Prize for Women and the Iakov Chernikhov Prize. In 2014, she was selected as a finalist for the Designs of the Year at the Design Museum in London and was nominated for the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize of the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2014, she won the Ibero-American Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism Prize (IX BIAU) in Rosario, Argentina. In 2017, she received the Emerging Voices Award by the Architectural League of New York.