That particular building has riled the Prince of Wales with its daring form beside Wren’s masterpiece, and one fears for the heir’s aorta should he visit Kensington Gardens this summer. Nouvel’s vivid, irresistibly bright red structure slaps powerfully against the humble surroundings of the Serpentine. Rising out of the ground is a great cantilevered wall that tilts at an uncomfortable angle, supporting a central frame off which hang a series of retractable awnings. Scattered around are pieces of furniture in, yes, red, and the whole edifice is surround by ruby-coloured drapes that just might have been filched from the set of Twin Peaks. Subtlety in this project has never been a big concern, but this is something altogether more daring. Anybody still traumatised by the flashes of red in Don’t Look Now is advised to stay away
Influences low and high of brow have been sought to explain the pavilion. In a speech this morning Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of exhibitions at the Serpentine gallery, invoked Cedric Price’s unrealised Fun Palace (as well he might, having written a book on him) and the artwork of Henri Matisse; Nouvel himself called upon Jean Baudrillard (a photograph taken by the late French intellectual adorns one wall) but, more playfully, he has previously spoken of his affection the red of London’s buses and phone booths.
That sense of play is what will ultimately make this another popular entry in the series; the lawn outside has a series of ping-pong tables, while at the back are a half dozen chess boards ready to be attacked by any passing player, Grandmaster or novice. The coffee tables, hammocks, benches, chairs, and even frisbees, are also likely to get a full workout in what is turning out to be a fine summer. Just as well, as this pavilion, so joyous and full of potential in the sun, wouldn’t work nearly as well in the rain.