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AJ exclusive: on site at the Serpentine Pavilion

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The AJ can reveal the first images of BIG’s centrepiece Serpentine Pavilion ahead of next week’s opening

This year the Serpentine Gallery’s summer programme has been expanded and, alongside BIG’s main 300m² pavilion, will be a quartet of ‘pop-up’ summer houses.

BIG’s installation is being constructed from a series of extruded fibreglass frames which are stacked on top of each other creating a cavernous space within. 

The separate 25m² summer houses have been drawn up by emerging UK star Asif Khan; veteran Hungarian-born, Paris-based Yona Friedman; Berlin and New York’s Barkow Leibinger; and former OMA architect Kunlé Adeyemi from Nigeria. 

Inspired by the 18th-century Queen Caroline’s temple, the four standalone schemes will sit ‘one minute’s walk’ from the main gallery building in London’s Kensington Gardens. The mini-pavilions range from Adeyemi’s inverse replica of Queen Caroline’s temple to Friedman’s modular structure ‘that can be assembled and disassembled in different formations’. 

All of the architects have yet to build a permanent structure in the UK. AKTII and AECOM are providing all the engineering and technical services. 

The pavilions are set to open to the public a week today (10 June).

Design statements by the 2016 Serpentine teams

Serpentine Pavilion

Bjarke Ingels

‘For the pavilion we have attempted to design a structure that embodies multiple aspects that are often perceived as opposites: a structure that is free-form yet rigorous, modular yet sculptural, both transparent and opaque, both solid box and blob. We decided to work with one of the most basic elements of architecture: the brick wall. Rather than clay bricks or stone blocks, the wall is erected from extruded fibreglass frames stacked on top of each other.

‘The wall is then pulled apart to form a cavity within it, to house the events of the pavilion’s programme. This unzipping of the wall turns the line into a surface, transforming the wall into a space. A complex three-dimensional environment is created which can be explored and experienced in a variety of ways, inside and outside. At the top, the wall appears like a straight line, while at the bottom, it forms a sheltered valley at the entrance of the pavilion and an undulating hillside towards the park.’

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Serpentine Summer Houses

Kunlé Adeyemi 

‘With a play on architecture, our design aims to fulfil the simple primary purpose of a summer house: a space for shelter and relaxation. The design is based on projecting an inverse replica of the historic Queen Caroline’s Temple – a tribute to its robust form, space and material, recomposed into a bold new sculptural object. By rotating the temple’s interior void space, we expose the structure’s Neoclassical plan, proportions and architectural form. Using prefabricated building blocks assembled from sandstone similar to the ones used in building the temple, our abstracted forms come together to create a room, a doorway and a window for people to interact with the building, the environment and with one another.

‘By locating the temple in the proximity of the trees, we offer an extension of the space into the landscape, providing shaded areas in their canopies and in the shadows generated by the object. The carved-out void, soft interior and fragmented furniture blocks create comfortable spaces for people to eat, rest or play – in and around the house – all through the summer season.’

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Kunlé Adeyemi - NLÉ

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Kunlé Adeyemi - NLÉ

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Kunlé Adeyemi - NLÉ

Barkow Leibinger 

‘Queen Caroline’s Temple, an 18th-century historical summer house attributed to William Kent and situated in proximity to the Serpentine Gallery, stands – seemingly without purpose – facing a large meadow. A second pavilion, today extinct, also designed by Kent was situated on a nearby man-made mountain constructed from the dredging of the artificial Long Water. This small pavilion rotated mechanically 360° at the top of the hill, offering various panoramic views of the park and, reciprocally, different views of itself when seen from the park. It was meant both to be visible in the park and a structure from which to survey its surroundings.

‘The little mountain and house disappeared at some point in history. With this absent structure in mind, we have designed a summer house in-the-round. Standing free with all its sides visible, and conceived as a series of undulating structural bands, it is reminiscent of a blind contour drawing (a drawing executed without lifting the pencil up from the paper and only looking at the subject). The logic of generating a structure from loops is a self-generating one and comes from the idea of coiling material in your hands then stacking the coils upon each other. The horizontal banding recalls the layered coursing of Queen Caroline’s Temple, despite its idiosyncratic nature.’

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Barkow Leibinger

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Barkow Leibinger

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Barkow Leibinger

Yona Friedman 

‘The proposed summer house builds upon my project La Ville Spatiale (Spatial City) begun in the late 1950s. The manifesto for this project, published in 1959, was based on two pillars or principles: firstly, a mobile architecture that could create an elevated city space and enable the growth of cities while restraining the use of land; secondly, the use of modular structures to allow people to live in housing of their own design.

‘The Serpentine Summer House is a ”space-chain” structure that constitutes a fragment of a larger grid structure, originally conceived for La Ville Spatiale. It is a modular structure that can be disassembled and assembled in different formations and compositions.’

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Yona Friedman

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Yona Friedman

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Yona Friedman

Asif Khan 

’The summer house takes a circular form where the circumference has been unpeeled to connect us and the Temple to a picturesque moment left hidden by William Kent almost 300 years ago. Through sun-path analysis I realised that Kent aligned the temple toward the direction of the rising sun on 1 March 1683, Queen Caroline’s birthday. This effect would have been amplified by the reflection off the newly created Serpentine lake. We can imagine that the lake itself may have been designed to amplify this annual moment, a landscape-sized mirror to reflect the sun, a possibility which John Rennie’s 1826 bridge obscures. In our summer house, a polished metal platform and roof provide an intimate experience of this lost moment for the visitor.

’Three “rooms” of differing spatial quality gently enfilade together like those in the temple. These are articulated by an undulating line of timber staves which create enclosure and direct views. The ground is a continuous gravel landscape punctuated by stepping stones, subtly elevating and measuring the visitor’s approach when entering the interior. As the structure meets the gravel it gently blends the horizontal and vertical, to appear as if the summer house might have grown out of the ground. The project is designed to offer new experiences of the park through dialogue with Queen Caroline’s Temple and the surrounding scenery.’

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Asif Khan

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Asif Khan

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Asif Khan
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