The Serpentine Galleries Pavilion

20140816 serpenting pavilion radic

The Serpentine Galleries Pavilion is a temporary structure commissioned by the Serpentine Galleries on an annual basis. The architect is given a brief with the simplest of requirements: the pavilion must include a cafe open during the day, and facilitate a variety of exhibitions during the evening, from live art, to music and public speeches.

20140816 serpenting pavilion hadid

The pavilion first came to existence in the year 2000, when Zaha Hadid (a member of the Serpentine Galleries) was commissioned to design a temporary structure for the galleries’ 30th anniversary gala. The entire project used only the budget which would have been allocated to hiring an event marquee for the gala. Hadid’s pavilion was met with such universal adoration by the visiting public that it was left standing for the remainder of the summer. The popularity of the structure prompted the Serpentine Galleries to repeat the exercise the following year, when they invited Daniel Libeskind to design a second summer pavilion.

20140816 serpenting pavilion libeskind

The Serpentine Galleries provide only one prompt to their chosen architect each year: that they reinvent the idea of a tent or temporary pavilion. Beyond this, the form of the pavilion each year is left to the commissioned architect to decide.

20140816 serpenting pavilion siza

As such, the form varies drastically from year to year. Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souta de Moura with Arup (2005) created a completely enclosed structure, utilising a series of interlocking partitions to span the length of the pavilion without the need for columns. In contrast, Sou Fujimoto (2013) designed a pavilion based entirely on a series of interconnected steel bars, resulting in a cloud-like space which suggests enclosure more than provides it.

20140816 serpenting pavilion fujimoto

The pavilions are largely funded by sponsorship and donated services from stakeholders involved in its design and construction. A portion of the consultants’  fees are also covered by the sale of the pavilion at the end of its exhibition period. The budget has increased substantially from Hadid’s shoestring pavilion in 2000, coming in at £750,000 for Jean Nouvel’s iteration in 2010.

20140816 serpenting pavilion nouvel

The transient life of the Serpentine Galleries Pavilions is a strong example of architecture responding to an explicit social need. Without the initial popularity of the 2000 pavilion, the now world-famous Serpentine tradition would never have been established. The is precisely the community response that Streets Without Cars is seeking: by creating something that not only caters to the needs of a community, but responds to their lifestyles, ambitions and desires too.


Images sources

  1. Serpentine Galleries Pavilion 2014 by Smiljan Radić. Copyright Iwan Baan.
  2. Serpentine Galleries Pavilion 2000, by Zaha Hadid. Copyright Hélène Binet.
  3. Serpentine Galleries Pavilion 2001, by Daniel Libeskind with Arup. Copyright Hélène Binet.
  4. Serpentine Galleries Pavilion 2005, by Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Arup. Copyright Sylvain Deleu.
  5. Serpentine Galleries Pavilion 2013, by Sou Fujimoto. Copyright Jim Stephenson.
  6. Serpentine Galleries Pavilion 2010, by Jean Nouvel. Copyright Phillip Ruault.
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