Summer hits Central London

Nick Myall
Wednesday 15 Jun 2016

The completed Serpentine Summer Houses are proving popular with the viewing public in London

The four architects who have designed this year’s Summer Houses at London’s Serpentine Gallery have created structures to reference Queen Caroline's Temple in Kensington Gardens, designed by architect William Kent in the early 18th century. The Neoclassical temple is situated in Kensington Gardens and was designed by William Kent in the early 18th Century.

The end results from the architects Kunlé Adeyemi, Asif Khan, Yona Friedman and Barkow Leibinger are all vastly different from one another. They include a structure made of wood, a curved wooden creation, a building that has been turned inside out and a courtyard that reflects the sunlight.

The summer houses sit alongside the Bjarke Ingels-designed Serpentine Gallery Pavillion. 

With a play on architecture Kunlé Adeyemi’s design aims to fulfil the primary function of a summer house: to be a space for shelter and relaxation. The architects have designed an "inverse replica" of the existing Queen Caroline's Temple which is made of sandstone. Rotating the interior space of the building to expose the plan of the historic structure as a void in one side of the new summer house. Also constructed out of sandstone, the design is conceived as a tribute to the original temple's "robust form, space and material, recomposed into a bold new sculptural object. By locating the Temple in the proximity of trees, we offer an extension of the space into the landscape.”

Barkow Leibinger's design responds to an 18th century structure which sat atop an artificial hill and mechanically rotated to offer 360-degree views of Hyde Park. Responding to this now-demolished structure, the firm has designed "a Summer House in-the-round" with a series of curved structural bands. "The horizontal banding recalls the layered coursing of Queen Caroline’s Temple," explains Barkow Leibinger's design description, "despite its idiosyncratic nature."

The design by Yona Friedman is a continuation of his lifelong "La Ville Spatiale" project, which envisions a large, mobile modular grid which offers space for citizens to construct their own homes in an elevated city. The summer house itself is "a ‘space-chain’ structure that constitutes a fragment of a larger grid structure," which can be disassembled and reconfigured in multiple ways.

Following his analysis of the site, Asif Khan's design for a summer house responds to the fact that architect William Kent appears to have aligned Queen Caroline's Temple to perfectly face the rising sun on March 3rd, the day of Queen Caroline's birthday. The Serpentine lake itself, he believes, may have added to this effect as "a landscape-sized mirror to reflect the sun." However, the bridge over the Serpentine, constructed in 1826, now prevents this effect. In response, Khan's summer house attempts to provide a recreation of this effect, with a polished metal floor and three aligned rooms, all enclosed by a series of timber columns which direct views out of the space.

Nick Myall

News Editor

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