'Fragile shell' opens on 26 June 2014

Tuesday 24 Jun 2014

Smiljan Radic unveils Serpentine Pavilion

Each year the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens invites an architect who has never completed a building in the UK to design a temporary pavilion in its grounds for the enjoyment of the public. Today was the official unveiling of Smiljan Radic’s gift to the park: a 514 sq m glass-reinforced plastic creation from one of the least-known architects to ever take up the challenge. Radic worked with engineers AECOM to realise his design.

The Chilean architect was presented with the daunting task of following Sou Fujimoto, whose ethereal cloud of steel for 2013 was dubbed one of the most popular Serpentine Pavilions of all time having been visited by almost 200,000 people during its summer stint.

Radic released renderings of his proposed pavilion in March this year to be greeted with mixed emotions from critics and the general public. Some compared it to a UFO while others praised the comparative simplicity of the design and celebrated the move away from so-called ‘starchitect’ choices by the gallery.  

Radic’s pavilion is a semi-translucent, cylindrical structure which has been designed to resemble a shell resting on a set of quarry stones. Of his commission the Chilean architect says: “The unusual shape and sensual qualities of the Pavilion have a strong physical impact on the visitor, especially juxtaposed with the classical architecture of the Serpentine Gallery.

“From the outside, visitors see a fragile shell in the shape of a hoop suspended on large quarry stones. Appearing as if they had always been part of the landscape, these stones are used as supports, giving the pavilion both a physical weight and an outer structure characterised by lightness and fragility.

“The shell, which is white, translucent and made of fibreglass, contains an interior that is organised around an empty patio at ground level, creating the sensation that the entire volume is floating. The simultaneously enclosed and open volumes of the structure explore the relationship between the surrounding Kensington Gardens and the interior of the Pavilion. The floor is grey wooden decking, as if the interior were a terrace rather than a protected interior space.”

The Pavilion opens to the public on Thursday 26 June and will remain on site until 19 October 2014. WAN will be publishing an interview with the lead engineer behind the 2014 Serpentine Gallery in the next issue of News Review (1 July 2014). 

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