Summer Pavilions in London at Serpentine Gallery

01
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The Best Modern Architecture Every Summer

Press Preview Of The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, 2012, Designed By Herzog And De Meuron and Ai Weiwei
Press Preview Of The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, 2012, Designed By Herzog And De Meuron and Ai Weiwei. Photo by Oli Scarff / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Forget Renzo Piano's Shard skyscraper and Norman Foster's Gherkin in downtown London. They'll be there for decades. Even that big Ferris wheel, the London Eye, has become a permanent tourist destination. Not so for what may be the best modern architecture in London.

Every summer since 2000, Serpentine Gallery at Kensington Gardens has commissioned internationally famous architects to design a pavilion on the grounds near the neoclassical Gallery building. These temporary structures usually function as a cafe and venue for summer entertainment. But, while the 1934 neoclassical Gallery is open all year, the modern Pavilions are temporary. At the end of the season, they are dismantled, removed from the Gallery grounds, and sometimes sold to wealthy benefactors. All we are left with is the memory.

This photo gallery lets you explore ALL the Pavilions and learn about the architects who designed them. Look fast, though—they'll be gone before you know it. Photos include:

Source: Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 10, 2013]

02
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2000 Pavilion by Zaha Hadid

Triangulated roof white tent structure
Inaugural Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, 2000, by Zaha Hadid. Photograph © Hélène Binet, Serpentine Gallery Press Archive

Architect: Baghdad born London-based Zaha Hadid, 2004 Pritzker Laureate
Size: 600 square meters of usable interior space

Hadid accepted this small project, a very temporary (one week) tent design for the Serpentine Gallery's summer fundraiser. The structure and public space was so well-liked that the Gallery kept it standing well into the autumn months. Thus was born the Serpentine Gallery Pavilions.

"The pavilion was not one of Hadid's finest works," says architecture critic Rowan Moore of The Observer. "It wasn't as assured as it might have been, but it pioneered an idea – the excitement and interest it aroused got the pavilion concept going."

Other Designs by this Architect: Zaha Hadid Architecture Portfolio

Sources: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2000, Serpentine Gallery website; "Ten years of the Serpentine's star pavilions" by Rowan Moore, The Observer, May 22, 2010 [accessed June 9, 2013]

03
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2001 Pavilion by Daniel Libeskind

Triagular aluminium panels reflect the surrounding landscape
Eighteen Turns, Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Daniel Libeskind with Arup, 2001. Photograph © Sylvain Deleu, Serpentine Gallery Press Archive, TASCHEN

Architect Daniel Libeskind was the first Pavilion architect to create a highly reflective, angular designed space. The surrounding Kensington Gardens and the brick-clad Serpentine Gallery itself breathed new life as reflected in the metalic origami concept he called Eighteen Turns. Libeskind worked with the London-based Arup, structural designers of the 1973 Sydney Opera House.

Other Designs by this Architect:

Source: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2001, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 9, 2013]

04
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2002 Pavilion by Toyo Ito

Numerous triangles and trapezoids provide a seating area within a cube structure.
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2002 by Toyo Ito. Photo © Toyo Ito and Associates Architects, courtesy pritzkerprize.com

Architect: Toyo Ito, 2013 Pritzker Laureate

Like Daniel Liebeskind before him, Ito turned to Cecil Balmond with Arup to help engineer his temporary contemporary pavilion. "It was something like a late-Gothic vault gone modern," architecture critic Rowan Moore said in The Observer. "It had, in fact, an underlying pattern, based on an algorithm of a cube that expanded as it rotated. Panels between the lines were solid, open or glazed, creating the semi-internal, semi-external quality that is common to almost all the pavilions."

Learn More:

Sources: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2002, Serpentine Gallery website; "Ten years of the Serpentine's star pavilions" by Rowan Moore, The Observer, May 22, 2010 [accessed June 9, 2013]

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2003 Pavilion by Oscar Niemeyer

Steel, aluminium, concrete and glass, with a ruby-red ramp
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003 by Oscar Niemeyer. Photo © Metro Centric on flickr.com, CC BY 2.0, metrocentric.livejournal.com

Architect: Oscar Niemeyer, 1988 Pritzker Laureate

Niemeyer was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on December 15, 1907—which made him 95 years old in the summer of 2003. The temporary pavilion, complete with the architect's own wall drawings, was the Pritzker winner's first British commission.

Other Designs by this Architect: Oscar Niemeyer Photo Gallery

Source: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 9, 2013]

06
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2004 Unrealized Pavilion by MVRDV

Drawing of green mountain with openings into what it covers
MVRDV with Arup, 2004 (un-realised). Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2004 designed by MVRDV, © MVRDV, courtesy Serpentine Gallery

Why was there no 2004 Pavilion?

The Observer architecture critic, Rowan Moore, explains that the pavilion designed by the Dutch masters at MVRDV was never built. Apparently burying "the entire Serpentine Gallery beneath an artificial mountain, up which the public would be able to promenade" was just too challenging a concept, and the plan was scrapped.

Architects' Statement:

"The concept intends to forge a stronger relationship between the pavilion and the Gallery, so that it becomes, not a separate structure but, an extension of the Gallery. By subsuming the current building inside the pavilion, it is transformed into a mysterious hidden space."

Source: "Ten years of the Serpentine's star pavilions" by Rowan Moore, The Observer, May 22, 2010 [accessed June 11, 2013]

07
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2005 Pavilion by Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura

Interlocking timber beams create an interior space larger than the exterior implies
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2005 by Álvaro Siza, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Cecil Balmond - Arup. Photo © Sylvain Deleu, Serpentine Gallery Press Archive, TASCHEN

Architects: Álvaro Siza Vieira, 1992 Pritzker Laureate and Eduardo Souto de Moura, 2011 Pritzker Laureate

The Portuguese architects sought to establish a "dialogue" between their temporary summer design and the architecture of the permanent Serpentine Gallery building. To actualize the vision, the team relied on the engineering expertise of Arup's Cecil Balmond, as had Toyo Ito in 2002 and Daniel Liebeskind in 2001.

Sources: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2005, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 9, 2013]

08
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2006 Pavilion by Rem Koolhaas

The Serpentine Inflatable Pavillion by architect Rem Koolhaas, 2006, London
The Serpentine Inflatable Pavillion by architect Rem Koolhaas, 2006, London. Photo by Scott Barbour / Getty Images News / Getty Images (cropped)

Architect: Rem Koolhaas, 2000 Pritzker Laureate
Dates of Installation: July 13 - October 15, 2006

By 2006, the temporary Pavilions in Kensington Gardens had become a place for tourists and Londoners to enjoy a cafe respite, which is often problematic in the British weather. How to you design a structure that is open to the summer breeze but protected from the summer rain?

Dutch architect Koolhaas designed "a spectacular ovoid-shaped inflatable canopy that floated above the Gallery's lawn." This flexible bubble could readily be moved and expanded as needed. Structural designer Cecil Balmond from Arup assisted with the installation, as he had for many past Pavilion architects.

Other Designs By This Architect:

Source: "Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2006" at http://www.serpentinegallery.org/2006/07/serpentine_gallery_pavilion_20_1.html, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 10, 2013]

09
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2007 Pavilion by Kjetil Thorsen and Olafur Eliasson

A man walks past the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2007, London, by Norwegian architect Kjetil Thorsen
A man walks past the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2007, London, by Norwegian architect Kjetil Thorsen. Photo by Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images News / Getty Images (cropped)

Design Team: Norwegian architect Kjetil Thorsen, of Snøhetta, and visual artist Olafur Eliasson
Dates of Installation: August 24 - November 5, 2007

Pavilions up to this point had been single-story structures. Thorsen and Eliasson created a conical structure like a "spinning top." Visitors could walk up a spiral ramp for a bird's-eye view of Kensington Gardens and the sheltered space below. Contrasting materials—dark solid timber seems to be held together with curtain-like white twists—created an interesting effect. Architecture critic Rowan Moore, however, called the collaboration "perfectly nice, but one of the least memorable."

Other Designs By These Architects:

  • National Opera House, Oslo, Norway (collaboration)
  • The New York City Waterfalls (Eliasson)
  • September 11 Museum Pavilion, New York City (Thorsen)

Sources: "Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007" at http://www.serpentinegallery.org/2007/01/olafur_eliasson_serpentine_gallery_pavilion_2007.html, Serpentine Gallery website; "Ten years of the Serpentine's star pavilions" by Rowan Moore, The Observer, May 22, 2010 [websites accessed June 10, 2013]

10
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2008 Pavilion by Frank Gehry

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London, 2008, by Frank Gehry
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London, 2008, by Frank Gehry. Photo by Dave M. Benett / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Architect: Frank Gehry, 1989 Pritzker Laureate
Dates of Installation: July 20 - October 19, 2008

Gehry stayed away from the curvy, shiny metallic designs he had used for buildings like the Disney Concert Hall. Instead, he took inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci's designs for wooden catapults, reminiscent of Gehry's earlier work in wood and glass.

Other Designs by this Architect: Buildings by Frank Gehry

Source: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 10, 2013]

11
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2009 Pavilion by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa

Aluminium flat roof, floating and drifting, reflecting the trees like smoke on a London summer day
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009 by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa SANAA. ©Loz Pycock, Loz Flowers on flickr.com, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Architect: Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of Sejima + Nishizawa and Associates (SANAA), 2010 Pritzker Laureates
Dates of Installation: July 12 - October 18, 2009

The architects described their pavilion as "floating aluminium, drifting freely between the trees like smoke."

Learn More:

Source: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 10, 2013]

12
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2010 Pavilion by Jean Nouvel

Jean Nouvel's 2010 Serpentine Gallery Pavillion entirely in red, located in London
Jean Nouvel's 2010 Serpentine Gallery Pavillion in London. Photo by Oli Scarff / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Architect: French born Jean Nouvel, 2008 Pritzker Laureate
Dates of Installation: July 10 - October 17, 2010

Beyond the geometric forms and mix of construction materials, one sees only red inside and out. Why so much red? Think of the old icons of Britain: telephone boxes, post boxes, and London buses, as transitory as Nouvel's pavilion.

Other Designs by this Architect: Buildings and Projects by Jean Nouvel

Source: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 7, 2013]

13
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2011 Pavilion by Peter Zumthor

Garden in the open center of surrounding steeply pitched roofs
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011 by Peter Zumthor. Photo © Alan Stanton on flickr.com, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Architect: Swiss born Peter Zumthor, 2009 Pritzker Laureate
Collaborator: Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf
Dates of Installation: July 1 - October 16, 2011

Architect's Statement:

"A garden is the most intimate landscape ensemble I know of. It is close to us. There we cultivate the plants we need. A garden requires care and protection. And so we encircle it, we defend it and fend for it. We give it shelter. The garden turns into a place....Enclosed gardens fascinate me. A forerunner of this fascination is my love of the fenced vegetable gardens on farms in the Alps, where farmers' wives often planted flowers as well....The hortus conclusus that I dream of is enclosed all around and open to the sky. Every time I imagine a garden in an architectural setting, it turns into a magical place...."—May 2011

Other Designs by this Architect:

Source: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 7, 2013]

14
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2012 Pavilion by Herzog, de Meuron, and Ai Weiwei

Excavated cafe clad in cork beneath a platform roof which floats 1.5 meters above ground
The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 Designed By Herzog and De Meuron and Ai Weiwei. Photo by Oli Scarff / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Architects: Swiss born Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, 2001 Pritzker Laureates
Collaborator: Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist
Dates of Installation: June 1 - October 14, 2012 (cultural venue for the 2012 London Olympics)

Architects' Statement:

"As we dig down into the earth to reach the groundwater, we encounter a diversity of constructed realities, such as telephone cables, remains of former foundations or backfills....Like a team of archaeologists, we identify these physical fragments as the remains of the eleven Pavilions built between 2000 and 2011....The former foundations and footprints form a jumble of convoluted lines, like a sewing pattern....The pavilion's interior is clad in cork – a natural material with great haptic and olfactory qualities and the versatility to be carved, cut, shaped and formed....The roof resembles that of an archaeological site. It floats a few feet above the grass of the park, so that everyone visiting can see the water on its surface.... [or] the water can be drained off the roof...simply as a platform suspended above the park."— May 2012

Other Designs by these Architects:

Sources: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 and Architect's Statement, Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 7, 2013]

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2013 Pavilion by Sou Fujimoto

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion Designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, 2013, London
The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion Designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, 2013, London. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images News / Getty Images (cropped)

Architect: Sou Fujimoto, born 1971, Hokkaido, Japan
Size: 357 square meter footprint; 142 square meter interior
Dates of Installation: June 8 - October 20, 2013

Construction Materials:

  • Steel frame, with 800mm and 400mm grid units; 8mm white steel bar barriers; 40mm white steel pipe handrails
  • Roof of 1.20 m and 0.6 m diameter polycarbonate discs (view image)
  • Levels of flooring, anti-slip glass, concrete, and gravel stones
  • Protection for seating area: polycarbonate strips, 200mm high

Architect's Statement:

"Within the pastoral context of Kensington Gardens, the vivid greenery surrounding the site merges with the constructed geometry of the Pavilion. A new form of environment has been created, where the natural and the man-made fuse. The inspiration for the design of the Pavilion was the concept that geometry and constructed forms could meld with the natural and the human. The fine, fragile grid creates a strong structural system that can expand to become a large cloud-like shape, combining strict order with softness. A simple cube, sized to the human body, is repeated to build a form that exists between the organic and the abstract, to create an ambiguous, soft-edged structure that will blur the boundaries between interior and exterior....From certain vantage points, the fragile cloud of the Pavilion appears to merge with the classical structure of the Serpentine Gallery, its visitors suspended in the space between architecture and nature."—Sou Fujimoto, May 2013

Sources: 2013 Lawn Programme Press Pack 2013-06-03 FINAL (PDF at http://www.serpentinegallery.org/2013%20LAWN%20PROGRAMME%20PRESS%20PACK%202013-06-03%20FINAL.pdf), Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 10, 2013]. ALL PHOTOS ©Loz Pycock, Loz Flowers on flickr.com, Attribution-CC ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Thank you, Loz!

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2014 Pavilion by Smiljan Radić

Smiljan Radic inside his 2014 Serpentine Pavilion, Kensington Gardens in London, England
Smiljan Radic inside his 2014 Serpentine Pavilion, Kensington Gardens in London, England. Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The architect tells us "Don't think too much. Just accept it." Did I hear him right at the press conference?

Chilean architect Smiljan Radić has created a primitive-looking fiberglass stone, reminiscent of the ancient architecture at Stonehenge in nearby Amesbury, UK. Resting on boulders, this hollowed shell—Radić calls it a "folly"—is one in which the summer visitor can enter, sit, and get a bite to eat—public architecture for free.

Architect: Smiljan Radić, born 1965, Santiago, Chile
Size: 541 square meter footprint; 160 square meter interior
Dates of Installation: June 26 - October 19, 2014

Construction Materials:

  • Main structure: structural steel with timber infill to form floor
  • Roof and walls: glass reinforced plastic shell
  • Floor: timber decking on wood joists between structural steel; stainless steel safety barriers
  • Furniture: modern stools, chairs, and tables modeled after the Finnish designs of Alvar Aalto

Architect's Statement:

"The unusual shape and sensual qualities of the Pavilion have a strong physical impact on the visitor, especially juxtaposed with the classical architecture of the Serpentine Gallery. From the outside, visitors see a fragile shell in the shape of a hoop suspended on large quarry stones. Appearing as if they had always been part of the landscape, these stones are used as supports, giving the Pavilion both a physical weight and an outer structure characterised by lightness and fragility. The shell, which is white, translucent and made of fibreglass, contains an interior that is organised around an empty patio at ground level, creating the sensation that the entire volume is floating....At night, the semi-transparency of the shell, together with a soft amber-tinted light, draws the attention of passers-by like lamps attracting moths."—Smiljan Radić, February 2014

Radić Designs:

Design ideas usually do not come out of the blue but evolve from previous works. Smiljan Radić has said that the 2014 Pavilion developed from his earlier works, including

  • 2005-2007: The Mestizo Restaurant, Santiago, Chili
  • 2010: Papier-mâché model for The Castle of The Selfish Giant

Source: Serpentine Pavilion 2014 Designed by Smiljan Radić, Serpentine Gallery Press Pack 2014-06-23-Final (PDF at http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/sites/default/files/press-releases/2014-06-23PavilionPressPackwithSponsors-%20Final.pdf), Serpentine Gallery website [accessed June 29, 2014].

17
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2015 Pavilion by Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano

Spanish architects Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano of SelgasCano outside the 2015 Serpentine Summer Pavillion
Spanish architects Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano of SelgasCano outside the 2015 Serpentine Summer Pavillion. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Architects: Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano, Madrid, Spain
Design Studio: SelgasCano, established in 1998
Size: 264 square meter footprint; 179 square meter interior
Construction Material: "panels of a translucent, multi-coloured fluorine-based polymer (ETFE)" on structural steel and concrete slab floor
Design Inspiration: Four entrances embrace the passageway design of the London Underground
Dates of Installation: June 25 - October 18, 2015

Selgas and Cano both turned 50-years-old in 2015, and this installation may be their most high-profile project. Like many of the temporary, experimental designs from previous years, the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion, sponsored in part by Goldman Sachs, has received mixed reviews from the public.

Source: Press Pack, Serpentine Gallery (PDF) [accessed June 21, 2015]

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2016 Pavilion by Bjarke Ingels

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Serpentine Pavilion 2016 designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Photo © Iwan Baan courtesy serpentinegalleries.org

The Danish architect Bjarke Ingels plays with a basic part of architecture in this London installation—the brick wall. His team sought to "unzip" the wall to create a "Serpentine wall" with occupiable space.

Architect: Bjarke Ingels
Design Studio: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), established in 2005
Pavilion Size: 1798 square feet (167 square meters) of usable interior space; 2939 square feet of gross internal space (273 square meters) within a footprint of 5823 square feet (541 square meters)
Construction Material: 1802 glass fiber boxes, frames approximately 15-3/4 by 19-3/4 inches; wooden floors; extruded Fiberline Composites
Design Inspiration: the brick wall
Dates of Installation: June 10 - October 9, 2016

Architects' Statement (in part):

"This unzipping of the wall turns the line into a surface, transforming the wall into a space....The unzipped wall creates a cave-like canyon lit through the fibreglass frames and the gaps between the shifted boxes, as well as through the translucent resin of the fiberglass....This simple manipulation of the archetypal space-defining garden wall creates a presence in the Park that changes as you move around it and as you move through it....As a result, presence becomes absence, orthogonal becomes curvilinear, structure becomes gesture, and box becomes blob."

In 2016, the Serpentine Architecture Programme again was supported by Goldman Sachs.

Sources: Projects, at www.big.dk/; Press Pack, Serpentine Gallery at http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/sites/default/files/press-releases/press_pack_-_press_page_0.pdf; Architect's Statement, February 2016 (PDF) [accessed June 11, 2016]