Serpentine Pavilion 2019, London

Junya Ishigami
Date Built
Hyde Park
The 2019 version of the Serpentine Gallery's Pavilion was designed by Junya Ishigami and much to the disapointment of its designer it didn't turn out to be quite what he intended.  Describing his concept Ishigami said, "... The design for the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion takes roofs, the most common architectural feature, as its point of departure and inspiration. It is reminiscent of roofing tiles seen around the world, bridging both architectural and cultural references through this single architectural feature. The roof of the Pavilion is made by arranging slates to create a canopy that alludes to nature. It appears to emerge from the ground of the surrounding Park.  My design for the Pavilion plays with our perspectives of the built environment against the backdrop of a natural landscape, emphasising a natural and organic feel as though it had grown out of the lawn, resembling a hill made of rocks. This is an attempt to supplement traditional architecture with modern methodologies and concepts, to create in this place an expanse of scenery like never seen before. Possessing the weighty presence of slate roofs seen around the world, and simultaneously appearing so light it could blow away in the breeze, the cluster of scattered rock levitates, like a billowing piece of fabric.  The interior of the Pavilion is an enclosed cave-like space, a refuge for contemplation. For me, the Pavilion articulates a ‘free space’ philosophy that is to harmony between man-made structures and those that already exist in nature."

However, as Oliver Wainwright put it in his Guardian article of June 18, 2019, what resulted was a clash of cultures with British Health and Safety standards resulting in, what the designer described as, disapointing alterations.  Wainwright described the pavilion as, "... squatting on the lawn like a moody crow, ..... Formed from hundreds of pieces of rough Cumbrian slate piled up in a gentle mound, it has the look of a bird hunkered down in a hollow in the landscape, making a protective shelter with its outstretched wings. As you approach, you find the great feathered hill is in fact a thin shell, 62 tonnes of slate effortlessly held up on a forest of slender white columns, creating a cave-like space within.  The final result feels rather lost in translation, the compromised product of a sharp clash of cultures. There are more columns than originally envisaged, and a series of clumsy polycarbonate walls have been installed, following wind analysis by engineers Aecom, to prevent the furniture from blowing away. Ishigami doesn’t hide his disappointment with the walls, which effectively destroy the design, turning the free-flowing space beneath the canopy into a more restricted enclosure."

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