Artistic duo reunited

Wednesday 08 Feb 2012

From the Bird's Nest to the Serpentine - Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei selected for 2012 Serpentine Pavilion

The Serpentine Gallery have announced that the Swiss architect duo Herzog & de Meuron and Chinese designer and artist Ai Weiwei are to create the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. It will be the 12th pavilion in a yearly series commissioned by the gallery, where the structure is used as a public space in London’s Hyde Park, as well as a venue to host talks and events.

The gallery chooses architects who have never built in the UK, so it will be the team’s first collaborative project in the country. Architects who have previously had the honour include Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, and most recently fellow Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.

The team first came together to design the Beijing National Stadium for which they won the prestigious RIBA Lubetkin Prize. Their new project will become part of the London 2012 Festival.

The design hopes to represent the previous pavilions on the site with eleven columns as well as uncovering foundations of the former structures still remaining underground. A twelfth column then becomes the support for a floating platform roof, 1.5m above ground. Visitors will be encouraged to reflect on the past structures of the site.

On their concept, the architects say: “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.”

The pavilion will be open from June to October 2012.

Dami Babalola

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