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Peyton-Jones: 'If the Serpentine Pavilion influences architectural culture, this is not our ambition'

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Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones on architecture’s most coveted pop-up commission and Sou Fujimoto’s contribution

Any architect who designs a pavilion will look to see what has gone before. The question is always what will my contribution be?

If you take this year’s pavilion by Sou Fujimoto in reference to last year’s, it’s an extreme counterpoint. Last year’s was dark and loaming in the earth, submerged. This year’s is high, transparent. The cloud analogy works very well. It also builds on the Japanese tradition of framing views.

If the pavilion influences architectural culture, that is not our ambition. We are working at the fringe of architectural culture, and this gives us more freedom.

As you know this is a curatorial project. It is about direct engagement. The purpose is to encourage and support architects to achieve their vision and ensure the process results in a masterwork.

The principle is not different from an art commission. We don’t say, you’re an architect and so we will work differently with you. However, there are many more practical considerations with architecture. It is a team approach, and the project team is a tightly woven unit. It is really like The Three Muskateers: ‘all for one, and one for all’.

With artists, we are not so involved in the making of the work. It’s a different kind of relationship. With architecture it is altogether more holistic. We are making something where nothing exists, on this same piece of lawn.

With Sou, we are trying to create a balance through the architects that we invite, and that includes the younger generation. We need to limit ourselves to architects who have sufficient means to make this commission a priority. Sou has a young, very galvanized team. His office is resolutely low tech where the hand is ever present. He has kindly donated his sketchbooks from his work on the pavilion, and they are full of ideas. We adored working with him.

The Serpentine Pavilion history

  • 2013 Sou Fujimoto
  • 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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