The annual Serpentine Galleries pavilion commission is a rare architectural project predicated on immediate and widespread public use while also encouraging formal inventiveness to the furthest possible degree. Each year’s works, laid out on the grounds of Kensington Gardens, function as a site for talks, performances and other events, while also as a showcase for some of the brightest talents in contemporary architecture.
Marking the commencement of this year’s project, Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’s Serpentine Pavilion is set to open to the public this week, a towering mass of sculpted blocks that appear to resemble shelving units twisting upwards to a spiraling peak. The structure, which bears striking resemblance to a chapel, is an endlessly unique form, swelling out into a central gathering space with undulating lines of material stretching out overhead. The work uses its simple concept to impressive effect, yet remains eminently usable, as its open central structure accommodates large crowds and isolated groups quite easily.
This year’s commission also welcomes a group of colleagues to contribute their own visions to Kensington Gardens, bringing a note of adventure and discovery to the project that had rarely been seen prior. Barkow Leibinger’s twisted whorls of wood, for instance, offer a more subdued experience and better views of the surrounding green-space, while Kunlé Adeyemi’s construction in another corner of the park appears more like abstracted ruins of a former civilization than a structure of its own.
It’s an interesting concept to consider, as the 15th year of the project, and the last for departing curator Julia Peyton-Jones, invites such a range of voices to the park, often without considering explicit connections between each pavilion. Rather, the movement between them, and the respective uses afforded to each, seem targeted around something of a neoliberal rethinking of space, where a multitude of agents, working in their own modes and strategies, create a range of options for those entering the grounds, or remaking the structures for their own uses. With such an open framework, the pavilion project seems to reach towards a smaller individual scale and broader selection of options as an option for building and exhibiting, a sort of modular architecture built on use rather than portability. Whether its goals are effective this summer remains to be seen.
— D. Creahan
Serpentine pavilion 2016: Bjarke Ingels’ pyramid for the Minecraft generation [The Guardian]