Time for Serpentine Pavilion to back Brits
Awarding the Serpentine Pavilion commission to an unknown star is great but it would be more rewarding for young British talent to get the job, says Rory Olcayto
With the announcement of the Chilean Smiljan Radic as this year’s architect for the Serpentine Pavilion, a trend has been set, a new direction forged and, perhaps, new life breathed into a flagging idea. It follows the Serpentine Gallery’s appointment of Sou Fujimoto last year, a relatively unknown name outside the painfully serious world of curatorial architecture and a sudden change from the glut of starchitect-designed pavilions that preceded his.
Like the Japanese architect, Radic is a young, talented foreigner who has never built in England, a twist on the original remit begun in 2000 of commissioning stars that had previously been ignored by English clients. Names like Zaha Hadid, Álvaro Siza and Oscar Niemeyer were the order of the day.
Now, it’s more about obscure, although admittedly very talented, architects you have never heard of. (Most still haven’t: Fujimoto’s debut didn’t seem to inspire English clients to take him on.)
Seeing British architects with similar profiles given the same chance as Radic and Fujimoto would be more rewarding – although parking ‘design’ in ephemeral, luvvie projects like this is probably doing as much harm to ‘Architecture’ as the MIPIM perspective on buildings as financial bolt-holes. We need new ideas of what architecture is and what architecture is for. We’re listening.