My research task, Pavilions, has led me to find out as much as I can about the annual Serpentine Gallery Pavilion project.
The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion Project was first established in 1970 in a former tea pavilion.
On opposite sides of the Kensington Gardens’ Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park also sits the Serpentine Sackler Gallery that was opened in 2013 and designed by the Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid.
The gallery sits across two sites that are 5 minutes apart in London’s Kensington Gardens, which is adjacent to Hyde Park. It is an easy distance from Exhibition Road, which is home to the V&A Museum, Science Museum and Natural History Museum, as well as Knightsbridge and High Street Kensington. All year round the galleries present free exhibitions, live events, education in the park and beyond. The pavilions, which last for three months, are intended to provide a multi-purpose social space where people gather and interact with contemporary art, music, dance and film events. The Serpentine has presented pioneering exhibitions for half a century, and this year being 2020 marks the galleries’ 50th anniversary, looking to the future with a programme responding to the urgent issues of today which include ecology, the climate emergency, equality and education, architecture and the impact of digital and new technologies.
The Serpentine’s annual architectural commission showcases new temporary buildings by international architects. There have been so many over the last 50 years but I have chosen one in-particular, purely because I adore the design and how the roofing tiles compliment the original former tea pavilion, very clever way of bringing the two together in an unconventional way. This design and the materials would make a perfect folly, bringing local british materials together in a fun and playful way, creating a space with geometric patterns that from a distance looks almost solid, but when you get up close you can see through the design.
In 2018, Mexican architect Frida Escobedo designed a secluded courtyard framed by decorative, latticed walls. Her pavilion features walls of concrete roofing tiles, a curving mirrored ceiling and a shallow, triangular pool of water. The aim was to reference the courtyards that are a common feature in Mexican residential architecture, and to frame these with a reinterpretation of the “celosia” – a breeze-block wall that allows light and the breeze to filter through. Here, the celosia is recreated using concrete roof tiles manufactured in the UK. These undulating tiles are stacked up to create a complex alternating pattern, which provides decorative details at the corners. They are mirrored by both the pool of water and the ceiling, creating a series of distorted reflections. In plan, the pavilion comprises two overlapping rectangles. One of these runs parallel with the Serpentine Gallery behind, and the other runs parallel to the Prime Meridian, the longitude axis established at nearby Greenwich, which is used to measure time all over the world. Escobedo’s intention was to create something that would allow the pavilion to not only be site-specific in Kensington Gardens, but also after the summer, when it will be moved to a new, as-yet-unknown location.
The pavilion was open to the public from 15 June to 7 October 2018. It contained a cafe, but also hosted a programme of events encompassing art, architecture, music, film and dance. When I first saw pictures of her design I thought it was created using willow, first impressions were how amazing it looked. Further research made me feel even more excited about the way it was created, how she was aware that her pavilion had a very dual nature and that after four months it would be moved on to become a permanent structure in a new home. Her approach was how to resolve this contradiction, knowing where the pavilion was going to be but not knowing where it was going to go next, how to anchor it to space but also make it spaceless. I think this is a truly wonderful idea, to take roof tiles and stack them to create a complex alternating pattern, woven like tapestry in a very specific pattern, providing decorative details at the corners. These are then mirrored by both the pool of water and the ceiling, creating a series of distorted reflections. She is used to working with simple materials and simple geometries but in complex way.
“In its beautiful harmony of Mexican and British influences, it promises to be a space of reflection and encounter,” they said. (Frearson.A, 2018)
“We wanted to create this closed courtyard that is inside the park, which in turn is inside the city of London; a Russian doll of interiors,” says Escobedo. (Stathaki,E.2018)
(Frearson.A, 2018) https://www.dezeen.com/2018/06/11/frida-escobedo-serpentine-pavilion-2018-woven-tapestry-concrete-tiles/ accessed 13.09.20
(Stathaki,E.2018) https://www.wallpaper.com/architecture/frida-escobedo-serpentine-pavilion-2018-london accessed 14.09.20
Fig.1 The Serpentine Gallery was established in 1970 and is housed in a Grade II-listed former tea pavilion https://www.serpentinegalleries.org/visit/ accessed 13.09.20
Fig.2 The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, a former Grade II listed gunpowder store, opened in 2013 https://www.inexhibit.com/case-studies/serpentine-galleries-pavilions-history/ accessed 13.09.20
Fig.3 An aerial view of Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine Gallery accessed 13.09.20
Fig.4 Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion accessed https://www.dezeen.com/2018/06/11/frida-escobedo-serpentine-pavilion-2018-woven-tapestry-concrete-tiles/ 14.09.20
Fig.5 Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion accessed https://www.archdaily.com/896135/frida-escobedos-2018-serpentine-pavilion-opens-in-london 14.09.20
Fig.6 Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion accessed https://www.nickys-world.com/2018/06/12/frida-escobedos-serpentine-pavillion-2018/ 14.09.20