We have always looked forward to the sometimes whacky, sometimes thoughtful, and sometimes moving installations at the Serpentine Pavilion in London. This pioneering commission, which began in 2000 with Zaha Hadid, has presented structures by some of the biggest names in international architecture. In the recent years it has grown into a highly-anticipated showcase for emerging talent, from Frida Escobedo of Mexico to Francis Kéré of Burkina Faso and Bjarke Ingels of Denmark, whose 2016 Pavilion was the most visited architectural and design exhibition in the world.
And this year too, it’s no different. The 19th architect to accept the invitation to design a temporary pavilion on the Serpentine Gallery’s lawn in Kensington Gardens, Japanese architect Junya Ishigami is celebrated for his experimental structures that interpret traditional architectural conventions and reflect natural phenomena. Ishigami established his studio in 2004 after working as an architect for Pritzker Prize-winning studio SANAA, the studio that created a mirrored canopy for the 2009 edition of the Serpentine Pavilion.
This year, Ishigami’s design takes roofs, the most common architectural feature, as its point of departure and inspiration. It is reminiscent of roofing tiles seen around the world, bridging both architectural and cultural references through this single architectural feature. The roof of the Pavilion is made by arranging slates to create a canopy that alludes to nature. It appears to emerge from the ground of the surrounding park. Within, the interior of the Pavilion is an enclosed cave-like space, a refuge for contemplation. For Ishigami, the Pavilion articulates his ‘free space’ philosophy in which he seeks harmony between man-made structures and those that already exist in nature.
Describing his concept, Ishigami says, “My design for the Pavilion plays with our perspectives of the built environment against the backdrop of a natural landscape, emphasising a natural and organic feel as though it had grown out of the lawn, resembling a hill made out of rocks. This is an attempt to supplement traditional architecture with modern methodologies and concepts, to create in this place an expanse of scenery like never seen before. Possessing the weighty presence of slate roofs seen around the world, and simultaneously appearing so light it could blow away in the breeze, the cluster of scattered rock levitates, like a billowing piece of fabric.”