In his own words: Sou Fujimoto on the Serpentine Pavilion
This year’s Serpentine Pavilion captures the ‘beautiful duality’ of the artificial and the natural, explains Sou Fujimoto
I wanted to make something natural and artificial: a mix of architecture and nature. This was something I have been interested in for the past few years. I used this grid system, an ordered system, but then blurred the experience like a forest or the branches of a tree. This is to express the beautiful duality of the artificial and the natural order. It’s a frame cloud and a polycarbonate cloud, with different densities throughout – some areas are almost opaque, while others are transparent.
My work is inspired by Gaudi and Einstein. I found Gaudi when I was 12 years old. As a child, I just felt that his work was amazing. And then at uni, after I chose architecture and I visited Gaudi in Barcelona, and I felt differently about his work. At Parc Guell, the diversity of the areas, and the way people behaved there, I saw that there was no boundary between architecture and landscape, architecture and nature.
This project is like Gaudi because I wanted to create something in between architecture and nature. A transparent landscape, a white forest. Gaudi’s work plays with the connection between nature, architecture and people. This is also fundamental to my work.
Einstein is my other influence. His theory of relativity and ideas of space, movement and time. My first concept of space came to me through Einstein, before I met architecture. I was thinking about behavior and field. In this pavilion, there is order, rules and diversity, but also something beyond the usual order.
I knew the previous Serpentine pavilions very well, and I had visited a few. This was a dream commission for me. Each pavilion has been personal to each architect. In this way, you don’t have to take on, or avoid, the approach of previous pavilions, you just have to be yourself. We focused on what we have done, what we are thinking about now, and what we might think in the future. The relationship between architecture and nature is a strong stream for us.
There are two sizes of cubes in the pavilion, 400mm x 400mm small cubes and 800mm x 800mm big cubes. The first idea was to only use small cubes, but during the process of design and in conversation with [Julia Peyton Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist], we felt that although the original concept was pure, using only one volume would be boring. The mixture creates different densities. It also made construction much easier. We sent a 3D computer model from our office to divide the structure into units and bigger modules.
I felt we haven’t made any compromises. We had to add the handrails for safety, but we studied all the different options, so in the end, I don’t feel this was a compromise.