This year’s Serpentine Pavilion — the annual commission given to an architect yet to build in Britain — has opened in Kensington Gardens. This is the 14th year for the project and, in our opinion, is the most inviting structure for many years.
The shell-like building by Chilean architect Smiljan Radić looks fragile from the outside, like a part-crushed egg with its yolk extruded. Yet the delicate fibreglass pod rests on top of a set of huge quarry stones, presenting a powerful contrast. The toroid interior contains a small cafe. It is bright, welcoming and a very human space. A second focus can be found beneath the structure — a grassy spot in the doughnut’s hole.
The Pavilion will remain in place all summer. During the day, it serves as a resting and refreshment point for park visitors. In the evening, it becomes an event venue, with a programme of talks and performances. The pavilion perhaps looks best at this time. In the architect’s words: “At night, the semi-transparency of the shell, together with a soft amber-tinted light, draws the attention of passers-by like lamps attracting moths.”
The Serpentine Pavilion can be found next to the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. It remains in place until 19 October. Entrance is free during normal opening, but there’s a charge for events.