The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 is designed by multi award-winning Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. He is the thirteenth and, at 41, the youngest architect to accept the invitation to design a temporary structure for the Serpentine Gallery. The most ambitious architectural programme of its kind worldwide, the Serpentine’s annual Pavilion commission is one of the most anticipated events on the cultural calendar. Past Pavilions have included designs by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei (2012), Frank Gehry (2008), Oscar Niemeyer (2003) and Zaha Hadid, who designed the inaugural structure in 2000.
Widely acknowledged as one of the most important architects coming to prominence worldwide, Sou Fujimoto is the leading light of an exciting generation of architects who are re-inventing our relationship with the built environment. Inspired by organic structures, such as the forest, Fujimoto’s signature buildings inhabit a space between nature and artificiality. Fujimoto has completed the majority of his buildings in Japan, with commissions ranging from the domestic, such as Final Wooden House, T House and House N, to the institutional, such as the Musashino Art Museum and Library at Musashino Art University.
Occupying some 357 square-metres of lawn in front of the Serpentine Gallery, Sou Fujimoto’s delicate, latticed structure of 20mm steel poles has a lightweight and semi-transparent appearance that allows it to blend, cloud-like, into the landscape against the classical backdrop of the Gallery’s colonnaded East wing. Designed as a flexible, multi-purpose social space – with a café run for the first time by Fortnum and Mason inside – visitors will be encouraged to enter and interact with the Pavilion in different ways throughout its four-month tenure in London's Kensington Gardens.
Fujimoto is the third Japanese architect to accept the invitation to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, following Pritzker Prize winners Toyo Ito in 2002 and Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA in 2009.
AECOM have provided engineering and technical design services for the Pavilion for 2013. David Glover, AECOM’s global chief executive for building engineering, has worked on the designs of many previous Pavilions. Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Gallery, said:
“Art and architecture is always experienced within the context of nature at the Serpentine. Like the park that surrounds the Gallery, Sou Fujimoto’s extraordinary design for our new Pavilion inhabits a space between nature and artificiality. While the structure blends, cloud-like into its natural surroundings, the intricate matrix of interlinking grids suggests a digital aesthetic that resonates with our age. This harmonious combination of architecture, technology and nature makes it the perfect landmark for the Serpentine Gallery, for Kensington Gardens and for London this summer. We are thrilled with the result and hope everyone who can, will come and see it.”
Describing his design concept, Sou Fujimoto said:
“For the 2013 Pavilion I propose an architectural landscape: a transparent terrain that encourages people to interact with and explore the site in diverse ways. 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 has been created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural or solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two.
The Pavilion is a delicate, three-dimensional structure; each unit comprises fine steel bars of 800 and 400 mm rectangles. It will form a semi-transparent, irregular canopy, simultaneously protecting visitors from the elements while allowing them to remain part of the landscape. The footprint of the structure will be 350 square-metres and the Pavilion will have two entrances. A series of stepped terraces will provide seating areas that will allow the Pavilion to be used as a flexible, multi-purpose social space.
The delicate quality of the structure, enhanced by its semi-transparency, will create a geometric, cloud-like form, as if it were mist rising from the undulations of the park. From certain vantage points, the Pavilion will appear to merge with the classical structure of the Serpentine Gallery, with visitors suspended in space.”