The arrival of the Serpentine Pavilion each year is a sure sign that the London summer has started and yesterday I enjoyed the 2018 pavilion on a perfect June day in London.
Now in its 18th year, each Pavilion is strikingly different from every predecessor and the 2018 version is another delight. The architect is Frida Escobeda from Mexico City is the youngest person to be given this annual commission and only the second woman after the late Zaha Hadid, who was the first back in 2000. Frida said she was very surprised to be asked to take on this commission however she has proved more than worthy of this award as her work is a wonderful addition to the list of great Pavilions. She talked of the challenge of designing a temporary structure that would be in its site-specific location for just 4 months and the would go on to an unknown location in a private collection. I’d not realised Pavilions have a second life and it made me wonder where previous ones have ended up.
This Pavilion takes the form of courtyards, interlocking with a central area sheltered by a reflective roof panel and alongside this a very shallow rectangular pool of water which also reflects. The walls are made of everyday concrete roof tiles which are in a woven lattice pattern with gaps to allow us to see the world outside – the gallery and the park – and to allow light into the structure. The park can be seen as a green and blue blur and the gallery as a brick shape as we gaze around us.
Her talent for designing beautiful structures is immediately clear as you wander in and out and around the Pavilion as different angles show the Pavilion itself and its surrounding in a different way and understanding the references gives additional enjoyment. Courtyards are popular in Mexican homes and taking the idea of the traditional Mexican breeze wall, commonly used in domestic architecture there, to bring air and light into the home and yet making it out of roof tiles commonly used in the UK, and using the basic material of cement, gives us a wonderful link between the 2 countries. The central alignment of the mirrored roof is along the Greenwich Prime Meridian, noting London’s position in the world and clearly placing the work in London.
Reflections are key to this Pavilion, both from the narrow pool and the mirrored roof, capturing light and shadow. The Pavilion is a space to sit or walk around and to take your time to enjoy your surrounding. The 3rd photo of the roof is the right way up – I think!
From the outside, the structure looks more blocky in contrast to the light inside, due to the dark colour of the tiles and the enclosed nature of the courtyards, but it is still intriguing and inviting. The cafe inside will allow time to sit and enjoy the space and is run by Chucs whose restaurant on Westbourne Grove offers a great brunch which I can vouch for.
We were kindly allowed onto the roof of the gallery to enjoy views of the Pavilion and a close up of the gallery’s glorious clock tower.
I’ve visited and written about previous pavilions and you can find these posts here to go back in time to 2017 and 2015. This year’s Pavilion is wonderful and I highly recommend you drop by while exploring the wide open spaces of Hyde Park.
To find out more about the Pavilion and the Serpentine Galleries go to their website: http://www.serpentinegalleries.org
Full disclosure: I was invited to a press preview to see the Pavilion ahead of its opening but it is free to visit anytime from June 15th to October 7th 2018.