Serpentine Pavilion

Serpentine Pavilion 2016

BIG

The 2016 Serpentine Pavilion, designed by BIG, has today been unveiled at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London.

The design consists of an “unzipped wall” in which a straight line of tubular fiberglass bricks at the top of the wall is split into two undulating sides, housing the program of the pavilion.[1]

The superstructure was formed of two surfaces which began as separate sinusoidal walls at ground level and rose to merge as a straight, horizontal line at an elevation of 14 m above ground.

The surfaces were formed from a series of 500 mm by 400 mm bricks. The length of each brick was such that they overlapped their neighbours sufficiently enough to create an enclosure, whilst also providing a sufficient connection length between adjacent bricks for structural purposes.

The transition from two separate halves to a single surface at the apex was achieved by arranging the boxes in alternate chequerboard patterns on either side of the wall, allowing them to merge seamlessly.[2]

Born with the millennium, the Serpentine project was entrusted to a purely artistic view of architecture, a view where use – in this case the questionable use of a small summer pavilion – was understood as a mere trigger of ephemeral buildings, folies trying to be innovative and popular at the same time.

Seen from this angle, it is safe to say that the project has well met its objectives, however true it may be that the resulting constructions have sometimes been uninnovative, banal, or even banally innovative, and that the yearly event has become just one more way of promoting the careers of the architects, be they emerging figures or already established professionals.

No one really knows whether to consider the Danish Bjarke Ingels an emerging or an established architect (and the ambiguity of course in itself works in his favor), but the fact is that his name is now part of the exclusive list of ‘serpentinized’ architects.

Inaugurated last 10 June in Kensington Gardens, his creation – visitable all summer and until 9 October – is a parabolic wall that unzips, splits, and twists to form a cavernous interior space, built with hollow ‘bricks’ of fiberglass stacked in a way that seems to defy gravity.

With his usual eloquence Ingels dialectically describes his Serpentine Gallery Pavilion as something that embodies aspects usually perceived as opposites – “free-form yet rigorous, modular yet sculptural, both transparent and opaque, both solid box and blob –, although it may be simpler to describe the pavilion with a single adjective: spectacular.[3]

  1. BIG’s 2016 Serpentine Pavilion Opens Alongside 4 Summerhouses / https://www.archdaily.com/789018/bigs-2016-serpentine-pavilion-opens-alongside-4-summerhouses
  2. Serpentione Pavilion / https://www.akt-uk.com/projects/serpentine-pavilion-2016/
  3. Serpentine Pavilion 2016 / https://arquitecturaviva.com/articles/serpentine-pavilion-2016-1

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