THE SERPENTINE'S BIGGEST SURPRISE IS OPTING FOR THE OBVIOUS CHOICE
Ever since Julia Peyton-Jones made the shock announcement that Zaha Hadid had agreed to design a pavilion in the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery back in 2000, she has demonstrated an uncanny ability to make unpredictable appointments which transpire to be exactly the right talent at exactly the right time. Seven years on she has delivered the biggest surprise of all by the simple expedient of opting for the obvious choice (see page 9).
Frei Otto has been designing temporary structures since before many of our leading architects were born. Since the last years of World War II, to be precise, when he spent time interred in a French POW camp designing experimental tents. He went on to found the University of Stuttgart's celebrated Institute for Lightweight Structures and to create a series of high-profile pavilions across Europe, all of which proved to be key landmarks in the evolution of pavilion design.
The pavilions may have been beautiful in themselves, but they were particularly valuable in that they provided test-beds for new ideas which went on to inform Otto's more significant work - not least the roof of the Munich Olympic Arena, completed in 1972. He has won his place in history by bringing integrity, economy and efficiency to the task of spanning vast distances, a talent which is certainly required for our Olympic plans.
If it honours its tradition of pairing its architect with Cecil Balmond, the Serpentine will have carried off the extraordinary feat of nurturing a collaboration between the world's two leading experts on lightweight and tensile structures and structural mathematics - a dream team which would be a coup for any Olympic delivery authority. The irony is that, while Britain is crying out for this sort of talent to be applied at gargantuan scale, their combined genius will be focused on a medium-sized tent.