London's Serpentine Gallery just released plans for the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. This summer's pavilion, the twelfth commission in the gallery’s annual series, will be open to the public from June 1 to October 14, 2012.
The design team responsible for the celebrated Beijing National Stadium, which was built for the 2008 Olympic Games, comes together again in London in 2012 for the Serpentine’s acclaimed annual commission, being presented as part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. The Pavilion is Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei’s first collaborative built structure in the UK.
This year’s Pavilion will take visitors beneath the Serpentine’s lawn to explore the hidden history of its previous Pavilions. Eleven columns characterizing each past Pavilion and a twelfth column representing the current structure will support a floating platform roof 1.4 metres above ground. The Pavilion’s interior will be clad in cork, a sustainable building material chosen for its unique qualities and to echo the excavated earth. Taking an archaeological approach, the architects have created a design that will inspire visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures.
Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Gallery, said: “It is a great honor to be working with Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, the design team behind Beijing’s superb Bird’s Nest Stadium. In this exciting year for London we are proud to be creating a connection between the Beijing 2008 and the London 2012 Games. We are enormously grateful for the help of everyone involved, especially Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal, whose incredible support has made this project possible.”
The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion will operate as a public space and as a venue for Park Nights, the Gallery’s high-profile program of public talks and events. Connecting to the archaeological focus of the Pavilion design, Park Nights will culminate in October with the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon, the latest edition of the annual Serpentine Marathon series conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist, now in its seventh year. The Marathon series began in 2006 with the 24-hour Serpentine Gallery Interview Marathon; followed by the Experiment Marathon in 2007; the Manifesto Marathon in 2008; the Poetry Marathon in 2009, the Map Marathon in 2010 and the Garden Marathon in 2011.
The 2012 Pavilion has been purchased by Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal and will enter their private collection after it closes to the public in October 2012.
Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei said:
“Every year since 2000, a different architect has been responsible for creating the Serpentine Gallery’s summer Pavilion for Kensington Gardens. That makes eleven Pavilions so far, our contribution will be the twelfth. So many Pavilions in so many different shapes and out of so many different materials have been conceived and built that we tried instinctively to sidestep the unavoidable problem of creating an object, a concrete shape.
“Our path to an alternative solution involves digging down some five feet into the soil of the park until we reach the groundwater. There we dig a waterhole, a kind of well, to collect all of the London rain that falls in the area of the Pavilion. In that way we incorporate an otherwise invisible aspect of reality in the park – the water under the ground – into our Pavilion. As we dig down into the earth we encounter a diversity of constructed realities such as telephone cables and former foundations. Like a team of archaeologists, we identify these physical fragments as remains of the eleven Pavilions built between 2000 and 2011. Their shape varies: circular, long and narrow, dots and also large, constructed hollows that have been filled in. These remains testify to the existence of the former Pavilions and their greater or lesser intervention in the natural environment of the park.
“All of these foundations will now be uncovered and reconstructed. The old foundations form a jumble of convoluted lines, like a sewing pattern. A distinctive landscape emerges out of the reconstructed foundations which is unlike anything we could have invented; its form and shape is actually a serendipitous gift. The three-dimensional reality of this landscape is astonishing and it is also the perfect place to sit, stand, lie down or just look and be amazed. In other words, the ideal environment for continuing to do what visitors have been doing in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilions over the past eleven years – and a discovery for the many new visitors anticipated for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“On the foundations of each single Pavilion, we extrude a new structure (supports, walls) as load-bearing elements for the roof of our Pavilion – eleven supports all told, plus our own column that we can place at will, like a wild card. 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 it, its surface reflecting the infinitely varied, atmospheric skies of London. For special events, the water can be drained off the roof as from a bathtub, from whence it flows back into the waterhole, the deepest point in the Pavilion landscape. The dry roof can then be used as a dance floor or simply as a platform suspended above the park.”
Referring to the extensive use of cork in the design, Herzog & de Meuron said: "Cork is a natural material with wonderful haptic and olfactory qualities with the versatility to be carved, cut, shaped and formed, as demonstrated in many historical examples of cork architectural models."
Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal "We are pleased and excited in this Olympic Year to be able to support the Serpentine Gallery's unique Pavilion series. After the triumph of the Beijing 2008 Bird's Nest, there could be no more appropriate collaboration for this year's pavilion than Herzog & De Meuron and Ai Weiwei.”
Robert Hiscox, Chairman of Hiscox said: “Hiscox is very proud to be associated with Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, two icons in their fields. Both are leaders in contemporary creativity, and Ai Weiwei has been courageous in standing by his artistic integrity. We are also very happy to be able to support the Serpentine Gallery again as it is a beacon of education and display of fascinating and always stimulating art.”
Antonio Rios de Amorim, Chairman & CEO, Corticeira Amorim said: “This partnership embodies Amorim’s incessant drive to make the unbeatable technical and sustainability credentials of natural cork known worldwide. Seeing cork so beautifully and prominently featured, not only makes us very proud, it also provides a great opportunity for consumers and professionals to understand better that cork is truly nature’s own high-tech, 21st Century material.”
Sue Harmsworth, CEO, ESPA said: “We’re proud to partner with The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2012. The concept of the Pavilion - celebrating innovative and creative architecture in Great Britain - paired with the inspiration of Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei to encourage visitors to look beneath the surface, perfectly reflects ESPA’s rich spa design heritage and core brand values."
Engineering firm Arup will collaborate with Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei to realize the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. The Arup team, led by Stuart Smith, will provide all engineering and specialist technical advice for the project. Director Stuart Smith said “This year’s Serpentine Pavilion has allowed us as a design team to build on the strong working relationship we originally forged designing the National Stadium for the Beijing Olympics. With London as the center of the Cultural Olympiad, it has been a pleasure and privilege working together on creative design and engineering innovation to literally delve deep into the history of past Pavilions creating an exciting living experience for visitors to enjoy.”
Rise will be working with Herzog de Meuron and Ai Weiwei to deliver the 2012 Pavilion. Gareth Stapleton, Director of Rise, will donate his expertise to all aspects of delivering the project. He said: "The Pavilion, being a temporary structure, gives freedom to the designers to maximize innovation. We are excited at the opportunity of maximizing this potential whilst delivering a functional project."
The Pavilion architects to date are: Peter Zumthor, 2011; Jean Nouvel, 2010; Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, SANAA, 2009; Frank Gehry, 2008; Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen, 2007; Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond, with Arup, 2006; Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Cecil Balmond, Arup, 2005; MVRDV with Arup, 2004 (un-realised); Oscar Niemeyer, 2003; Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond - with Arup, 2002; Daniel Libeskind with Arup, 2001; and Zaha Hadid, 2000.
The Serpentine’s Pavilion commission, conceived in 2000 by the Gallery’s Director Julia Peyton-Jones, has become an international site for architectural experimentation and has presented projects by some of the world’s greatest architects. Each Pavilion is sited on the Gallery’s lawn for three months and the immediacy of the commission – a maximum of six months from invitation to completion – provides a unique model worldwide.