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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.

Smiljan Radic's designs for the 2014 Serpentine Pavilion

Smiljan Radic’s designs for the 2014 Serpentine Pavilion

Readers' comments (2)

  • Whilst I agree that more unknown architects and emerging talent is the right way to go, maybe even going for someone under the age of 40 which is yet to be done as far as I am aware. However the whole point behind the Serpentine as I understand it is to allow people who at the time of their commission have never completed a project in the UK to construct something, giving a whole new audience a chance to experience their work. Thus explaining why no British talent has been commissioned in the pavilions history

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  • Thomas, that was the point of the pavilion, as I said in my editorial, above. But the rule has been broken - H&dM built the pavilion in 2012 even though they had already built in England (Tate, Laban) so....time to change the rules! Or just scrap it. That said, the Radic scheme has a lovely neo-Neolithic aesthetic!

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