The stunning new Serpentine Pavilion will be this summer’s cultural hotspot
Set in the bucolic surroundings of London’s Hyde Park, the celebrated Serpentine Gallery has become renowned for its annual architectural commission, the Serpentine Pavilion, shining a light on the work of talented international architects. It’s become a highlight of the capital’s cultural calendar, when a special temporary building springs up to live in the park for the summer, playing host to a number of special events. This year’s Serpentine Pavilion will open to the public this Friday, 11 June, and has already been lauded as an architectural triumph.
The new work is a particularly significant one, as the 20th Serpentine Pavilion to date. It’s been designed by Counterspace, a Johannesburg-based architectural practice led by Sumayya Vally – who was honoured earlier this year with a spot on the TIME100 Next List, and, at just 30-years-old, is the youngest ever architect to receive the prestigious Pavillion commission.
An arresting, elegant structure with swooping, clean lines, striking shapes and a restrained colour palette in shades of white, black, pinks and browns, the work is built from reclaimed steel, timber and cork, covered in micro-cement. The Serpentine Gallery announced that the Pavllion’s design ‘is based on past and present places of meeting, organising and belonging across several London neighbourhoods significant to diasporic and cross-cultural communities, including Brixton, Hoxton, Tower Hamlets, Edgware Road, Barking and Dagenham and Peckham, among others.’
Such themes seem particularly potent considering Hyde Park’s location – bordered by the likes of Kensington Gardens and Buckingham Palace – and its association with the wealthy elite. Counterspace sought, however, to address ‘the historical erasure and scarcity of informal community spaces across the city’, instead paying ‘homage to existing and erased places that have held communities over time and continue to do so today’, such as ‘Fazl Mosque and East London Mosque, cooperative bookshops including Centerprise, Hackney; entertainment and cultural sites including The Four Aces Club on Dalston Lane, The Mangrove restaurant and the Notting Hill Carnival.’ Rich with meaning, the various shapes that make up the structure come together to ‘create a new place for gathering in the Pavilion’.
Commenting on the commission on the Serpentine website, Vally spoke of the centrality of ‘amplifying and collaborating with multiple and diverse voices from many different histories’ in Counterspace’s work, ‘with an interest in themes of identity, community, belonging and gathering.’ She went on: ‘The past year has drawn these themes sharply into focus and has allowed me the space to reflect on the incredible generosity of the communities that have been integral to this Pavilion.’ Speaking to Guardian, Valley added that she intended the structure to ‘reflect London back to London’.
Gesturing to the resonance of the new Pavilion beyond its immediate location, four ‘fragments’ – smaller scale structures, like podiums and stages – have been placed at sites around the city, special ‘partner organisations’, that helped inspire its creation. These are Finsbury Park’s black British publisher and bookshop New Beacon Books; beloved Notting Hill venue The Tabernacle; The Albany arts centre in Deptford; and the newly-established Becontree Forever Arts and Culture Hub, based at Valence Library in Barking and Dagenham.
The Pavilion plays a key role in London’s summer events season as a cultural venue, and this year will be no exception, with the new work set to host ‘a specially commissioned sound programme Listening to the City… connecting visitors to the stories and sounds of selected London neighbourhoods.’ And the Pavilion’s influence will extend out into the wider artistic community too, through the foundation of Support Structures for Support Structures, a new grant and fellowship scheme aimed at ‘artists who work in, support and hold communities in London through their work.’
Following months of closures, a trip to the new Serpentine Pavilion is the perfect way to celebrate the glorious return of culture.
The Serpentine Pavilion will be open from 11 June – 17 October. For more information, visit serpentinegalleries.org
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Published at Wed, 09 Jun 2021 10:57:23 +0000