Beirut-born, Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh has been announced as the designer of the 22nd annual Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. Titled “À Table,” the French expression for sitting together to eat, her proposal introduces a slender wooden structure with nine pleated petals supported by radial ribs. Inside the pavilion, a ring of tables and benches invites visitors to enter, sit down and relax, eat or work together. According to the architect, the modest space and low-slung canopy is meant to make people feel close to the earth. The Serpentine Pavilion will be open from June to October 2023.
The structure rests on a colonnade of slim laminated timber columns that give shape to a protected walkway around the pavilion. The interior space is separated from the exterior through translucent glass screens. Inside, the space is illuminated through the central oculus, which is covered with a tensile membrane to keep the rain out. The proposal aims to be a subtle and modest intervention in Kensington Gardens, in contrast to other pavilions installed throughout the years. Inspired by nature and echoing the grounds and canopies of the trees and its surroundings, the idea of togetherness and community will take center stage in Ghotmeh’s structural architecture.
The architect also explains her intention to minimize the carbon footprint as much as possible. The glass screens are intended to be made out of low-carbon recycled glass, a technology developed by Saint-Gobain. The timber will be laminated veneer lumber, or LVL, an efficient material that allows for a more slender structure compared to the more widely used cross-laminated timber (CLT). The connections will also be designed for easy disassembly.
À table is an invitation to dwell together in the same space and around the same table. It is an encouragement to enter into a dialogue, to convene and to think about how we could reinstate and re-establish our relationship to nature and the Earth. - Lina Ghotmeh
According to the architect, the design was developed by researching the typology of community meeting places, like the toguna huts of the Dogon people in Mali. In her professional career, Gothmeh gained international recognition for a number of projects, including the Stone Garden Apartment Building in Beirut, Lebanon, a project exhibited at the 2021 Venice Biennale. The Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture office is recognized for its commitment to sustainability while also bringing a materially sensitive approach to its projects. The projects take into consideration social conditions, environments and materials while taking an in-depth 360 approach by conducting research on location history, typology of the place, materials, resources, and users’ habits.
Lina Ghotmeh’s appointment continues the Serpentine Pavilion’s long-standing tradition of highlighting young and upcoming names in the architecture practice. Last year’s pavilion, Black Chapel, was designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates with the concept of interlinking architecture and music, and emphasizing artistic explorations of monastic sounds and hymns. Previous editions have seen installations like Francis Kéré's "symbol of togetherness", Junya Ishigami's "hill of rocks," and BIG's "unzipped wall.”