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Frei Otto selected for Serpentine Pavilion - images

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German architect and engineer Frei Otto has been chosen to design this year's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.

The 81-year-old RIBA Gold Medallist, who is best known for his pioneering lightweight tent structures, has joined a growing hall of fame given the chance to build their first UK project on the gallery's lawns in Kensington Gardens.

Otto will follow in the footsteps of Toyo Ito, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, lvaro Siza with Eduardo Souto de Moura, Oscar Niemeyer and Rem Koolhaas to design the temporary summer event space in the famous London park.

It is understood that engineering legend and deputy chair of Arup, Cecil Balmond, has also been lined up to work on the project; he helped design five of the six previous pavilions.

However, the AJ has learned Balmond's appointment is still to be officially finalised and the extent of his role, bearing in mind Otto's own engineering background, remains unclear.

Otto, the designer behind the famous West German Pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo and the roofs over several of the stadia at the 1972 Olympic Park in Munich (below), has inspired a wave of British architects including Richard Rogers, Michael Hopkins and Edward Cullinan.

Speaking about Otto's appointment, Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones said the influential German was a 'leading pioneer of 20th-century architecture' and hailed him as 'a seminal figure in the development of tensile architecture'.

She said: 'He was the first architect to lead away from simple geometric solutions towards organic free forms that were able to respond to complex planning and structural requirements.

'An architect/inventor, he founded his extraordinary laboratory exploring the study of self-organisation in soap bubbles, crystals, microscopic plants, animal life and branching systems.'

Otto is also expected to work with 'a well-known artist' on the project.

The gallery dipped its toes into the waters of artist/architect collaboration last year, with Rem Koolhaas' design featuring printed panels by German photographer Thomas Demand.

A planning application for this year's structure is expected to be submitted in March.

by Richard Waite

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