09 Jul, 2009

Serpentine pavilion unveiled

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Temporary structure created by Japanese architects SANAA has been described as a floating pool of water

The Serpentine Gallery’s latest summer pavilion was unveiled today: a swirling aluminium roof supported on slender steel columns, winding among the trees over a space partly enclosed by transparent panels.

The pavilion, designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of Tokyo-based architecture firm SANAA, has been described as a reflective cloud or a floating pool of water; it was just that today, holding a torrent of water and showing a shimmering vision of towering black clouds about to release the next flood.

“The reality is more beautiful than I imagined it,” Sejima said, looking up as the roof reflected muddy dogs and dripping horses and riders peering in curiously as they passed by.

The Serpentine’s annual temporary pavilion has become a fixture in the art calendar: the only criterion is that the architects must never have completed a building in the UK before.

The first was created by Zaha Hadid in 2000, and the rules are now unbreakable. Whether obscure or mega-famous – the tumble of giant Jenga blocks installed last year by Frank Gehry became one of the most popular art installations in the world – the architects always design a playground for balmy summer days and mild blue evenings, and then it always pours.

The ramp wrapped around the previous year’s copper pyramid by Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen became a spiral waterfall, against which joggers in the park pitted themselves for extra exercise.

There is no budget and no public subsidy for the pavilion. The gallery’s directors think of a name, phone and ask the architects, who then have a hectic six months not only to design and build the structure, but to raise the money to pay for it, both in sponsorship and sponsorship in kind.

This year’s backers include the posh estate agents Knight Frank, who will offset some of the cost by auctioning the pavilion when it closes in October; Perspex, whose plastic panels will partly shelter the shivering visitor; and Ainscough Crane Hire, who proclaim their pride “in providing the lifting solutions”.

Come rain or shine the public will embrace the new free space, which will have a cafe by day and a wide range of art, music and film events by night.

Every summer the gallery staff watch visitors picnicking determinedly in an architectural masterpiece providing ample inspiration – but very little shelter.

• The Serpentine Gallery pavilion is open to the public from Sunday until 18 October.

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