Serpentine Pavilion 2012, London

Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei
Date Built
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens
The 2012 version of the annual Serpentine Gallery Pavilion was designed by the team responsible for the Beijing National Stadium (The Bird's Nest), built for the 2008 Olympic Games.  This pavilion was designed to pay homage to those that preceded it.  The gallery says that it features, "Eleven columns characterising each past Pavilion and a twelfth column representing the current structure will support a floating platform roof 1.5 metres above ground. The Pavilion's interior will be clad in cork, a sustainable building material chosen for its unique qualities and to echo the excavated earth. Taking an archaeological approach, the architects have created a design that will inspire visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures."  A series of cork toadstool-like seats were arranged around the pavilion encouraging visitors to stay for a while.

The architects elaborated on this desire to look beneath the surface.  Their website says, "Our path to an alternative solution involves digging down some five feet into the soil of the park until we reach the groundwater. There we dig a waterhole, a kind of well, to collect all of the London rain that falls in the area of the Pavilion. In that way we incorporate an otherwise invisible aspect of reality in the park – the water under the ground – into our Pavilion."

The link with water continued on the roof of the pavilion which on most days featured a shallow circular pool.  However, the water could be drained away to create a dry roof suitable for events such as dancing.  The architects explain that, "The roof resembles that of an archaeological site. It floats a few feet above the grass of the park, so that everyone visiting can see the water on it, its surface reflecting the infinitely varied, atmospheric skies of London. For special events, the water can be drained off the roof as from a bathtub, from whence it flows back into the waterhole, the deepest point in the Pavilion landscape."

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