Sou Fujimoto designs Serpentine Pavilion

Thursday 14 Feb 2013

41-year old Japanese architect will become youngest person ever to accept challenge

The images shown here are the first released of the 2013 Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. Each year the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens invites an architect who has not completed a work in the UK before to design a temporary structure for public use in the park. For the first year, Arup will not be engineers on the project. AECOM will be supplying engineering and technical design services for the 2013 Serpentine Pavilion.

In operation for four months this summer, Fujimoto’s pavilion will be a cloud-like structure formed of 20mm steel poles which intersect one another like a gigantic nest. The semi-transparent pavilion will be a delicate latticework through which visitors can view the natural beauty of Kensington Gardens while they sup coffees in the café or engage in social events.

Of his design, Fujimoto explains his concept thus: "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 will be created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural nor solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two.

“The Pavilion will be a delicate, three-dimensional structure, each unit of which will be composed of fine steel bars. It will form a semi-transparent, irregular ring, simultaneously protecting visitors from the elements while allowing them to remain part of the landscape. The overall footprint 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."

David Glover, AECOM’s global chief executive for building engineering, commented: “This is an exciting and challenging opportunity for our team. Sou Fujimoto has designed a very complex structure made up of over 20,000 individual elements & 9,000 nodes compared to the 1,000 to 2,000 found in a typical building.

"This tubular steel frame and the integral poly-carbonate discs and seating elements are designed to work as a single element. As you would expect, the quality of the detailing and fabrication is fundamental part of the Pavilion's design so our work will be on show for everyone to see. While this has certainly generated some pressure, we also look forward to having visitors ask themselves ‘How did they manage to achieve that?” 

Last year’s Serpentine Pavilion was completed by the duo behind the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, Herzog & de Meuron with Ai Weiwei. A cork-based structure, it was subtly lit and topped with a shimmering platform of water which could be drained to create a raised space for dancing and commercial events.

In 2011 Peter Zumthor presented one of the most restrained Serpentine Pavilions yet; a black frame encircling a closed meadow-like garden for quiet contemplation. Click here for more details of past Serpentine Pavilions, including those from Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and SANAA.

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