The Chilean architect Smiljan Radic has been selected to design the 2014 Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, London. Radic will follow in the footsteps of household-name architects such as Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry, both of whom have constructed temporary pavilions as part of the series, as well as lesser-known figures such as Sou Fujimoto.
Radic arguably fits into this latter category of less high-profile architects despite his bulging portfolio. In 2001 he was handed the title of Best under 35-year-old architect by the Chile College of Architects followed by an honorary membership to the American Institute of Architects in 2009, however he has evaded the spotlight and designed modest schemes - largely in his native Chile - that draw on their site conditions in a sensitive and original way.
This year, the Serpentine Gallery has invited Radic to design a temporary pavilion for construction in Kensington Gardens. Working with AECOM, who will provide engineering and technical design services as well as cost and project management, Radic will create a semi-translucent shell-like structure with a covered social space for informal interactions and performances.
The design is 350 sq m and rests on large quarry stones, referencing an earlier work by Radic also supported by boulders: Restaurant Mestizo. During its four-month tenure the pavilion will host a series of site-specific cultural events curated by the Serpentine Gallery. It will also be open to the public with a café incorporated into its interior multi-purpose space.
Of his design Radic says: “Externally, the visitor will see a fragile shell suspended on large quarry stones. This shell - white, translucent and made of fibreglass - will house an interior organised around an empty patio, from where the natural setting will appear lower, giving the sensation that the entire volume is floating. At night, thanks to the semi-transparency of the shell, the amber tinted light will attract the attention of passers-by, like lamps attracting moths.”
Since the news broke this morning, social media site Twitter has been abuzz with commentary on the commission, with many comparing Radic’s concept to a UFO. They are not alone, as Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director of the Serpentine Galleries have also made the connection: “We have been intrigued by his work ever since our first encounter with him at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2011.
“Radic is a key protagonist of an amazing architectural explosion in Chile. While enigmatically archaic, in the tradition of romantic follies, Radic’s designs for the Pavilion also look excitingly futuristic, appearing like an alien space pod that has come to rest on a Neolithic site. We cannot wait to see his Pavilion installed on the Serpentine Gallery’s lawn this summer.”