Designed by Japanese firm SANAA, the pavilion is built from aluminium-coated plywood, crafted in a shape that snakes through the trees, some of which were planted specfically for the installation. Propped up by thin stainless steel columns that look barely capable of the job, it’s entirely in keeping with the architects’ trademark deceptive lightness of touch. The finished pavilion looks uncannily similar to the mock-up unveiled earlier in the year, and in the right light plays tricks with the optics, the reflective surface confusing sight-lines and throwing distorted reflections back at the disoriented bystander.
The pavilion is perhaps less engaging for the visitor than previous efforts. There’s little to do save wander around and gawp at yourself on the ceiling, and the functional chairs and tables dotted around were more often than not neglected as people chose to perch on the grass instead. It’s also unlikely to offer much shelter from the driving rain, but there is one closed-off section in which the Serpentine’s myriad summer-season events will be held.
It’s a pity that, on the flat terrain of Kensington Gardens, there’s no opportunity to glimpse the shape from above, to see how it fits in with the surroundings from an aerial vantage. The best view of this pavilion may well belong to the birds — who’ve already shown their disapproval by liberally crapping on it. For us ground-dwelling beings, it ranks as another success for the ninth pavilion in the series. As they mark the tenth anniversary next year — and the Serpentine’s fortieth birthday — it’ll be a challenge for whomever gets the job to keep up what has been a remarkably successful run.
Images by the author unless otherwise stated.