Now in its fifteenth edition, the summer pavilion that the Serpentine Gallery raises yearly at Kensington Gardens in London proposes a relationship with architecture that is based on universal concepts like structure, light, lightweightness, transparency, shades, change, form, color, materials, and so on. Together they give visitors a ludic experience of perceptions through surprises occurring along the way inside.
From a metaphorical point of view, the pavilion evokes a chrysalis. Its organic forms resonate with the trees around, but also suggest the idea of a continuous underground tunnel, like the mythical ones of London’s ‘tube’ network, with their constant flow of city commuters. From these premises the building takes the form of a crosspiece or an X chromosome, whose four arms opening on to the exterior entice visitors to step into a bulbous and translucent interior, and begin their promenade architecturale through galleries of variable height and width. These rooms converge at the heart of the pavilion, a more spacious hall where people can gather and sit down for a cup of coffee.
In construction terms, this year’s Serpentine Pavilion is like a huge tent, lightweight and textile, and like tents, it is made of a dense mesh of elements of changing curvature, metallic in this case, which holds up a ventilated double skin inside. This skin is formed by two sheets of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), an aesthetic material that is highly resistant to ultraviolet rays and abrupt temperature changes. With varying degrees of transparency and a very broad range of colors, either stretched out like cloth fabrics or arranged in strips like the threads of a spider web, the ETFE sheets are easily adapted to the organic form defined by the metal structure, and generate a surprising play of atmospheres that marks the mood of the pavilion’s interior space.
Pabellón temporal Summer pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery.
Selgascano / José Selgas y Lucía Cano.
Iwan Baan, Roland Halbe, Danica O. Kus.