Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei to design Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012

Jacques Herzog, and Pierre de Meuron © Courtesy of Serpentine Gallery

Today, the Serpentine Gallery announced the team that will design the twelfth edition of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, a special edition that will be part of the  2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.

Every year the gallery invites a renowned international architects who has not built yet in the UK, to design a temporary pavilion that hosts public activities in at the Gallery’s lawn, in London’s Hyde Park between June and October 2012. The list of architects for the past editions includes several Pritzker laureates. More info of this program at our Serpentine Gallery Pavilion infographic.

This years teams includes Pritzker laureate architects Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (runner up of TIME’s 2011 Person of the Year). The trio has worked together in projects such as ORDOS 100 in the Mongolian desert and the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games. As a trio they don’t have any built projects in the UK, but Herzog & de Meuron have been involved in several, including the Tate Modern renovation and its current expansion.

Their design will explore the  hidden history of the previous installations (more info), with eleven columns under the lawn of the Serpentine, representing the past pavilions and a twelfth column supporting a floating platform roof 1.5 metres above ground. Taking an archaeological approach, the architects have created a design that will inspire visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures.

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Gallery, said: “It is a great honour to be working with Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. We are delighted that our annual commission will bring this unique architectural collaboration to Europe to mark the continuity between the Beijing 2008 and the London 2012 Games.”

Describing their design concept Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei said:
“Every year since 2000, a different architect has been responsible for creating the Serpentine Gallery’s summer Pavilion for Kensington Gardens. That makes eleven Pavilions so far, our contribution will be the twelfth. So many Pavilions in so many different shapes and out of so many different materials have been conceived and built that we tried instinctively to sidestep the unavoidable problem of creating an object, a concrete shape.

“Our path to an alternative solution involves digging down some five feet into the soil of the park until we reach the groundwater. There we dig a waterhole, a kind of well, to collect all of the London rain that falls in the area of the Pavilion. In that way we incorporate an otherwise invisible aspect of reality in the park – the water under the ground – into our Pavilion. As we dig down into the earth we encounter a diversity of constructed realities such as telephone cables and former foundations. Like a team of archaeologists, we identify these physical fragments as remains of the eleven Pavilions built between 2000 and 2011. Their shape varies: circular, long and narrow, dots and also large, constructed hollows that have been filled in. These remains testify to the existence of the former Pavilions and their greater or lesser intervention in the natural environment of the park.

“All of these foundations will now be uncovered and reconstructed. The old foundations form a jumble of convoluted lines, like a sewing pattern. A distinctive landscape emerges out of the reconstructed foundations which is unlike anything we could have invented; its form and shape is actually a serendipitous gift. The three-dimensional reality of this landscape is astonishing and it is also the perfect place to sit, stand, lie down or just look and be amazed. In other words, the ideal environment for continuing to do what visitors have been doing in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilions over the past eleven years – and a discovery for the many new visitors anticipated for the London 2012 Olympic Games.”

On the foundations of each single Pavilion, we extrude a new structure (supports, walls) as load-bearing elements for the roof of our Pavilion – eleven supports all told, plus our own column that we can place at will, like a wild card. The roof resembles that of an archaeological site. It floats some five feet above the grass of the park, so that everyone visiting can see the water on it, its surface reflecting the infinitely varied, atmospheric skies of London. For special events, the water can be drained off the roof as from a bathtub, from whence it flows back into the waterhole, the deepest point in the Pavilion landscape. The dry roof can then be used as a dance floor or simply as a platform suspended above the park.

No images of the design have been released yet. We will keep you updated.

Cite: Basulto, David. "Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei to design Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012" 07 Feb 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=206329>
  • http://binocle.it lorenzo bini

    mmhh… doesn’t the Tate Modern count as a built project?

    • rusty cannon

      “As a trio they don’t have any built projects in the UK, but Herzog & de Meuron have been involved in several, including the Tate Modern renovation and its current expansion.”

      • http://binocle.it lorenzo bini

        Either way, in my opinion, since Jacques & Pierre have built in the UK… the trio has built in the UK as well.
        Still we can all look forward to their great proposal for the Serpentine, but the rule is now broken, isn’t it?

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  • munter roe

    Nice spread guys. Is that a gold fish bowel aswell? Nothing beats fresh fish

  • Dr Heywood Floyd

    In a manner ironically and strikingly similar to that of their over-wrought SD pases, HdM seems to have overdone it with their food order.

  • hmg

    huge fan of HdeM but this is basically the serpentine totally giving up on up and coming practices… come on guys really?

  • rachid

    what a shame. ignoring your own constitution via a technicality. hdm are great architects but the pavilion exists not to reaffirm that status to a city that is lucky to have one of their masterpieces permanently in its keeping. it’s not like there aren’t gifted architects out there who could do an outstanding and thought provoking job and could do with the leg up. it’s a real shame.

  • James

    Getting the Birds Nest trio to do the serpentine for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad (as if anyone besides a few people with offices in M(ay)oreLondon have any idea what a ‘Cultural Olympiad’ is)? All I can think of is the episode of The Simpsons where the town divides into East and West Springfield and Homer decides they should build a wall between the two…. Lisa: ‘You mean like the one in Berlin?’ Homer: ‘Great idea! Maybe we can get the guys they used?!’

  • Bistra Spiriev

    Such a honor! Are they celebrating with an all vegetarian fiesta

    • andazzi

      Personally I feel deceived by the fact that the trio can do the project…being also myself a fan of H&deM… I must admit I prefer the Ps1 approach, instead of calling always Pritzker Graduate, could be much intresting and also much brave to call young architects that for sure will do the best to present a fresh and new project…

  • Martin Hedin

    Are they drunk?