Everything about the Serpentine Pavilion


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Today the ribbon of one of the most important events of the European cultural summer is cut. In the Kensington Gardens, the most pitimini area of ​​Hyde Park, the Serpentine Pavilion opens , a pop-up space for culture, exhibitions, cinema and conferences.

And, in turn, a remarkable and recurring event for a world, that of architecture, which does not usually have periodic news of this caliber.


But beyond the media route and professional recognition, the Serpentine Pavilion is a must of the London summer for different reasons.

To understand it, one must go back to the 1930s, when the Welsh architect James Gray West projected a tea house on the west bank of The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.

The building was not and will not be much. In fact, West's career could be summed up as that of a compliant, classic designer and with no greater desire than to do beautiful things for a somewhat outdated breed. And it went well.

Frida Escobedo frente a su obra

Frida Escobedo in front of her work © Getty Images

The case is that, it is not known if by the punk or by the boredom of the new generations, this flirtatious local business for snacks and bridge games closed its doors and was reinvented in state art gallery in the 70s. Its rupture does not It was only with its old use, it was also conceptual. Here they were not going to exhibit those artists who communed with the West style.

Here the new, the radiant, the disruptive and the scandalous would be welcomed. That is, Basquiat, Warhol, Man Ray, Koons, Hirst, Kapoor or Abramovic in what ended up becoming a Modern TATE before the TATE Modern was born.

And all this contubernio was called Serpentine Gallery, like the pond, and they opened it wide and totally free for everyone so as not to break with the policy followed by all London museums of ownership or public management. The result is indisputable: today it is visited by more than one million people every year.

La mexicana Frida Escobedo revoluciona Londres

The Mexican Frida Escobedo revolutionizes London © Getty Images


It was in the year 2000 when director Julia Peyton-Jones looked for some way to celebrate the 30 years of existence of the gallery. His idea was clear: to build a less classic (and more versatile) space to commemorate this event through a lavish gala and disassemble everything the next day.

And yet, when Peyton-Jones and the then Secretary of State for Culture Chris Smith saw the design of Zaha Hadid, they decided that it had to last longer, that this tangle of triangular windows deserved to last all summer on the grass of the city.

That wonderful creation inspired a new idea: why don't we invite a different architect every year to expose his advances and constructive concepts in this space?

This is how the Pavilion was born, an honest way to bring architecture closer to the public, to show them live and direct what is being done in other parts of the world and to express to them the concepts behind every great current designer.

Of course, beyond quality, the architects chosen had to meet the requirement of never having planned anything in the United Kingdom. First of all, disclosure.

Serpentine Pavilion

The Serpentine Pavilion from above © Getty Images


Like any construction, the Serpentine Pavilion required a use, and it was given. Today it serves to bring each architect's work closer to the general public as well as to project documentaries, make talks and cut distances in a world that has not yet globalized in aesthetic terms.

It also usually hosts some of the concerts, performances and plays of Park at Night, the programming of the Serpentine gallery for the most benign months in the City.

And, of course, different presentations that usually have as a star the artists / designers / architects who have raised it in each edition.

Selgascano alt=

The inflatable gallery signed by the Spanish studio Selgascano in 2015 © John Offenbach


Today signing a flag of the Serpentine is like winning an Oscar. It does not have too many economic returns, but for the international reputation of each artist it is usually a spur and a 'regram' in conditions of his work.

Without going any further, Selgascano (the only Spanish studio that has been invited to develop a Pavilion) has recognized on more than one occasion that having signed that inflatable gallery of 2015 has opened many doors to other Biennials and Triennals around the world .

The reasons are very diverse. Without going any further, the location. Exhibiting at the epicenter of London's summer is a popular and media guarantee. Then the paraphernalia of talks, saraos and guided tours that make each creator's reputation grow is also a plus .

And of course, the synergies that may arise before and after installation. Not surprisingly, throughout its short history artists have joined with architects to generate unrepeatable works such as Cecil Balmond and Toyo Ito in 2002 or Ai Wei Wei and Herzog & de Meuron in 2012.

The fact is that prestige is also contributed by the rest of the architects who have developed their work here, in a list that highlights Rem Koolhas, Alvaro Siza, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel or Peter Zumthor.

The big absences? Well, clearly those neat studies in projecting in London and the rest of the Kingdom such as Norman Foster, Renzo Piano or Richard Rogers, although other relevant firms such as MVRDV are also missing (they tried in 2004, but the pavilion that year was not built), Rafael Moneo, Alejandro Aravena or Tadao Ando.

Pavilion Frank Gery

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008, designed by Frank Gehry © John Offenbach


This summer the joys are several and for many reasons. The first, that the Serpentine has focused on Mexico and its architectural spring that drinks from the sources of Barragán and updates its ideals.

The second, which bets on a Latin American study for the third time in 18 editions (after Niemeyer and Smiljan Radic Clarke). The third, which is the second time that a woman assumes this challenge, after Zaha Hadid, although that does not mean that Kazuyo Sejima (SANAA) or Lucía Cano (Selgascano) have had 50% or more responsibility in these Creations

Because, if something stands out of the Serpentine, it is that his vision of architecture is global, peer and avant-garde and perhaps has become a fairer recognition than that of the Pritzker awards.

And the fourth, which is the youngest, at just 39 years old, which shows that no extra maturity is required to change the world.

Frida Escobedo

Frida Escobedo presents a Pavilion that combines British sobriety and Mexican authenticity © Cuauhtemoc García

Frida Escobedo, true to her style, has brought to the green heart of London her local and ingrained vision of architecture in which she uses traditional materials and styles to give them an intelligent, innovative and social use.

That is why it has built a huge latticework parallel to the Greenwich meridian made with the accumulation of black concrete tiles.

British sobriety and Mexican authenticity, since this type of light and fresh walls are typical of the North American country. With this element as the axis of everything, he manages to create a space in which the lights and shadows play with the retina all day aided by a water mirror.

To this we must add a curved roof that reflects natural light, creating views that are not delimited by the edges of the construction. And all this can be enjoyed until October 7 of this year.

Detalle de la Serpentine de Frida Escobedo

Detail of the Serpentine de Frida Escobedo © Getty Images