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2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

Herzog & de Meuron, Ai Weiwei

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

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Year Completed



Serpentine Gallery



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Tomorrow, the latest Serpentine Gallery Pavilion opens to the public in Kensington Gardens. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron describe their Basel, Switzerland–based firm’s collaborative effort with Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei for their pavilion in London as an archaeological excavation of previous pavilions. Their work exhumes underpinnings of the 11 past exhibits on the same site, with columns extending from a single remnant of each to support the 2012 pavilion’s roof: “On the foundations of each single Pavilion, we extrude a new structure (supports, walls) as load-bearing elements for the roof of our Pavilion—11 supports all told, plus our own column that we can place at will, like a wild card,” say the architects. This roof, which collects a thin, reflective layer of rainwater, can also be drained to form an elevated platform for events and happenings. Beneath it, the designers sculpted a new topography out of the reclaimed foundations and covered the entire surface in cork, a material that the trio chose for its feel and smell, as well as its sustainability.

Ai Weiwei also worked with Herzog & de Meuron on the Beijing National Stadium (aka The Bird’s Nest) in China as part of the 2008 Olympic Games. This exhibition will coincide with the London 2012 games, as well as the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, which will bring artists from around the world together in the United Kingdom. The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion will remain open to visitors through October 14. --Deane Madsen

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Project Description

The design team responsible for the celebrated Beijing National Stadium, which was built for the 2008 Olympic Games and won the prestigious RIBA Lubetkin Prize, came together again in London in 2012 in a special development of the Serpentine's acclaimed annual commission.
Open from June to October 2012, the Pavilion was presented as part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. The Pavilion is Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei's first collaborative built structure in the UK.
This year's pavilion takes visitors beneath the Serpentine's lawn to explore the hidden history of its previous pavilions. Eleven columns characterising each past pavilion and a twelfth column representing the current structure support a floating platform roof 1.5 metres above ground. The Pavilion's interior is clad in cork, a sustainable building material chosen for its unique qualities and to echo the excavated earth. Taking an archaeological approach, the architects have created a design that inspires visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures.
The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion operates as a public space and as a venue for Park Nights, the gallery's high-profile programme of public talks and events. Connecting to the archaeological focus of the Pavilion design, Park Nights will culminate in October with the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon, the latest edition of the annual Serpentine Marathon series conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist, now in its seventh year. The Marathon series began in 2006 with the 24-hour Serpentine Gallery Interview Marathon; followed by the Experiment Marathon in 2007; the Manifesto Marathon in 2008; the Poetry Marathon in 2009, the Map Marathon in 2010 and the Garden Marathon in 2011.
The 2012 Pavilion has been purchased by Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal and will enter their private collection after it closes to the public in October 2012.
‘The annual Serpentine Pavilion commission in London’s Kensington Gardens is such a moment – a measure of the condition of contemporary architecture’ -- Financial Times
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