Each year, the Serpentine Gallery commissions an outstanding architect who has yet to build on British soil to design a Pavilion in the yards of the gallery in Hyde Park. This year’s pavilion, an impressive cloud of white steel built upon a three-dimensional grid, was conceived by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto.
At 41 years of age, Fujimoto is the youngest architect to date to receive the commission, and joins a list of designers that includes Herzog and De Meuron, Peter Zumthor, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Toyo Ito, to name a few. Pritzker Prize laureates have designed nine of the thirteen pavilions that have been constructed since the commission’s inception in 2000, and Fujimoto is the third Japanese architect to be selected for the honor, following Toyo Ito in 2002 and SANAA architects in 2009.
Fujimoto’s 3,770 square foot pavilion challenges the physicality of its material makeup, using a rigid geometrical organization to create an ellusively immaterial structure. The 20mm white-coated steel latticework is weaved in three-dimensional squares on a strict grid, using variations in density to articulate boundaries of varying impact. The structure, which was manufactured in several sections in York and assembled on-site, is overlaid with glass panels in certain parts to create walls, ceilings and platforms, protecting the space from the elements and allowing users access to higher levels.
Fujimoto uses the semi-transparent structure to modulate light and sight-lines, with the end goal of mediating between the natural environment of the garden and the artificial construction of the pavilion. In this sense, the space-defining boundaries serve as suggestions rather than tangible partitions, opening the shaped space to the surrounding Hyde Park and vice versa. “Within the pastoral context of Kensington Gardens, I envisage the vivid greenery of the surrounding plant life woven together with a constructed geometry. A new form of environment will be created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural nor solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two,” said Fujimoto in his description of the project.
The pavilion serves as a flexible multifunctional event space for several lectures and events to be hosted by the Serpentine Gallery. This year’s project also features a coffee bar by Fortnum and Mason, making it the first Serpentine Pavilion to house a vendor. The pavilion is open to the public daily from 10am to 6pm through October 20th, 2013.