2012 marks the 12th year of the transformation of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London. Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Nouvel and many other famous contemporary architects have all tried their hand at reinterpreting this infamous plot of land. This year, the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei teamed up to create the new design for the pavilion. Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron are the dynamic duo responsible for another iconic building in London, the Tate Modern, and have constructed many buildings all around the world. Ai Weiwei is most famous for his contemporary art and political and social activism. They all also worked together on the Bird’s Nest for the 2008 Beijing Olympics so it is only fitting that their new collaboration was ready just in time for the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Throughout the years, architects have built the pavilion upwards, creating magnificent structures ranging in width, height and shape. This year, Herzog, de Meuron and Ai Weiwei changed it up by bringing the viewer underground. The cork interior is sheltered by a floating circular platform raised 1.5m above the ground. When it rains, which it does quite frequently in London, the rainwater pools creating a reflective mirror-like surface. Twelve columns hold up the platform, each representing the aesthetics of one of the eleven previous Serpentine Pavilions. The interior has multiple geometric levels of cork flooring that represent the different layers of the earth. These layers act as a ghost or a reminder of the various architectural elements that came before. In de Meuron’s words, it is a “beautiful but seemingly chaotic structure: a found landscape.” The viewer is invited to come in and explore this landscape, sit on the floor or on one of the stools built into the ground, or walk around and experience both the new and the old.
The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion will also be holding numerous public events over the summer through the Park Nights series until the end of October. This series includes the screening of Ai Weiwei’s new documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry along with many other parties, screenings and seminars.
To keep up to date with the exciting events happening at the pavilion, check the Serpentine Gallery‘s site.