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Fujimoto unveils 'cloud-like' 2013 Serpentine Pavilion

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Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto has been selected to design this year’s Serpentine pavilion

The 41-year-old, described by the London gallery as a ‘leading light’ and ‘one of the most fascinating architects in the world today’, will become the youngest ever designer to complete the high-profile temporary commission.

Made from steel latticework, Fujimoto’s 350m² structure will be a ‘transparent and lightweight’ cloud-like addition to the famous art gallery inside London’s Kensington Gardens.

Including a café and multi-purpose social space, it will be the third Serpentine pavilion designed by a Japanese architect following Toyo Ito in 2002 and SANAA in 2009.

The choice of a younger talent represents a departure from previous year’s which saw the coveted commission awarded to established names such as Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry. Nine out of the past 12 architects to be chosen for the job hold the Pritzker Medal.

AECOM replaces engineers Arup

It is also the first pavilion commission which AECOM has worked on as engineers. Arup has supported the architect teams on several of the previous pavilions with the company’s engineering star Cecil Balmond leading on both the 2006 and 2007 structures.

Major projects by Fujimoto include the Musashino Art Museum and Library in Tokyo and the Hokkaido Children’s Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centre for which he won the Japan Institute of Architects Grand Prize.

He also bagged the World Architectural Festival’s top award in 2008 for the 90m² Final Wooden House in Japan and won prizes at the Architectural Review Awards for three years in a row including the grand prize in 2006.

Fujimoto said: ‘For the 2013 Pavilion I propose an architectural landscape: a transparent terrain that encourages people to interact with and explore the site in diverse ways. Within the pastoral context of Kensington Gardens, I envisage the vivid greenery of the surrounding plant life woven together with a constructed geometry. A new form of environment will be created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural nor solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two.

The pavilion will be a delicate, three-dimensional structure forming a semi-transparent, irregular ring

‘The pavilion will be a delicate, three-dimensional structure, each unit of which will be composed of fine steel bars. It will form a semi-transparent, irregular ring, simultaneously protecting visitors from the elements while allowing them to remain part of the landscape. The overall footprint will be 350 square-metres and the Pavilion will have two entrances. A series of stepped terraces will provide seating areas that will allow the Pavilion to be used as a flexible, multi-purpose social space.

‘The delicate quality of the structure, enhanced by its semi-transparency, will create a geometric, cloud-like form, as if it were mist rising from the undulations of the park. From certain vantage points, the Pavilion will appear to merge with the classical structure of the Serpentine Gallery, with visitors suspended in space.’

Sou Fujimoto studied at Tokyo University and established his practice Sou Fujimoto Architects aged 29. In 2012, Fujimoto was awarded the golden lion for national participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale along with Kumiko Inui, Akihisa Hirata and Naoya Hatakeyama.

Serpentine Gallery directors Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist said:  ‘We are thrilled to be working with one of the most fascinating architects in the world today. A visionary, who has conceived an extraordinary response to our invitation to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, Sou Fujimoto has designed a structure that will enthral everyone that encounters it throughout the summer.’

The Serpentine Pavilion history

  • 2012 Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei
  • 2011 Peter Zumthor
  • 2010 Jean Nouvel
  • 2009 Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, SANAA
  • 2008 Frank Gehry
  • 2007 Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen
  • 2006 Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond with Arup
  • 2005 Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Cecil Balmond, Arup,
  • 2004 MVRDV with Arup (un-realised)
  • 2003 Oscar Niemeyer
  • 2002 Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond with Arup
  • 2001 Daniel Libeskind with Arup
  • 2000 Zaha Hadid
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