This year’s summer pavilion of the Serpentine, the popular gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens, opens to the public on 11 June, a year after it was supposed to, thanks to the Covid-19 crisis. It was designed by Counterspace, the South African firm headed by the young architect Sumayya Vally. This is the twentieth Serpentine Pavilion. The first was by Zaha Hadid, in 2000.
Vally’s design consists of abstract fragments for which she drew inspiration from more than fifty meeting spaces of immigrant communities in various areas of London, including cafés, libraries, and worship spaces. Elements like curved moldings and grooved classical columns were assembled under a roof six meters high. On a concrete base that will later be reused, a structure of recycled steel holds up prefabricated blocks of plywood wrapped in microcement.
This time around, expanding as an outreach program, the on-site pavilion is complemented by four outposts elsewhere in the city: New Beacon Books in Finsbury Park; Albany Arts Centre in Deptford; Tabernacle in Notting Hill, and Valence Library in Barking and Dagenham.
The 2021 pavilion is open to visitors through 17 October, after which it will be dismantled for Therme Group, the Austrian company that has acquired it, as it did the two previous structures built for the Serpentine, designed by Frida Escobedo and Junya Ishigami.