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Lina Ghotmeh channels notions of unity and resilience for Serpentine Pavilion 2023

Titled À table, Ghotmeh’s lightweight, timber Serpentine Pavilion is conceived as a common ground for meaningful human interaction.

by STIRworldPublished on : Nov 24, 2022

Lebanese-born, Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh has been selected to design the Serpentine Pavilion for 2023, its 22nd edition, imagining it as a lightweight, almost skeletal timber structure to be installed in London's Kensington Gardens, with Hyde Park, in June 2023. Next year's pavilion will be titled À table, 'the French call to sit down together at a table,' and will allude to a sense of unity through its almost monastic form—an organic design of a table as well as a seating formation inviting human interactions. Ghotmeh, now, joins the impressive list of architects who have designed the annual pavilion before her, including Sou Fujimoto (2013), Francis Kéré (2017), Frida Escobedo (2018), and most recently Theaster Gates (2022).

“Inspired by nature and echoing the grounds and canopies of the trees and its surroundings, the idea of togetherness and community will take centre stage in Ghotmeh’s structural architecture,” shares the Serpentine in an official statement. The pioneering and prestigious commission began in 2000 with a pavilion design by the later Dame Zaha Hadid. “The Pavilion has evolved over the years as a participatory public and artistic platform for the Serpentine’s experimental, interdisciplinary, community and family programmes,” they add.

Lebanese-born, Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh | Serpentine Pavilion 2023 | STIRworld
Lebanese-born, Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh Image: Gilbert Hage

Echoing the structures of tree leaves, the pavilion design will embrace the nature of the park in which it is set to emerge, and be completely demountable. The 22nd Serpentine Pavilion, with Goldman Sachs supporting the annual project for the 9th consecutive year, will continue the ongoing practice of ‘Archaeology of the Future,’ by exploring notions of memory, space, and landscape through Ghotmeh’s own personal methodology.

Ghotmeh’s À table will place nature, the organic, and sustainability at its heart, and will be designed to minimise its carbon footprint and environmental impact, in line with Serpentine’s sustainability policy. The organic architecture will also employ sustainably sourced materials, with a focus on the reusability of the structure after its time at Serpentine.

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 with nature and the Earth. – Lina Ghotmeh

Ghotmeh, who won the Schelling Architecture Prize (2020) and is a Jury Member for the Aga Khan Awards, elaborates on her vision for the pavilion—“The Earth that embraces us is our first source of sustenance; without it, we living beings, could not survive. Rethinking what and how much we eat–how we ‘consume’ and how we weave our relationships with one another and the living world—moves us towards a more sustainable, eco-systemic communion with the Earth. Our ‘cuisine’ grounds us home, it reminds us how linked we are to the climates in which we grew up. As a Mediterranean woman, born and raised in Beirut, and living in Paris, I feel a deep belonging to our ground, to what it contains, and to what it embraces—from the buried yet weathering archaeologies of past civilisations to the embedded living world that spurs green life to sprout from every crack in the streets."

The organic design of the pavilion echoes trees | Serpentine Pavilion 2023 | STIRworld
The organic design of the pavilion echoes trees Image: © Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture, Courtesy of Serpentine

"In my practice as an architect, I excavate to design (and learn) from the traces of the past and I listen to the voices of my ancestors as well as those of our living world. These voices vividly resonate with future structures as ways to influence and challenge tomorrow’s architecture.

In today’s changing times, this Pavilion offers a celebratory space. It is endowed with a table, around which we will sit together in a modest, low structure, and in an atmosphere reminiscent of Toguna huts of the Dogon people in Mali, West Africa, designed to bring all members of a community together in discussion. Here we can eat, work, play, meet, talk, rethink, and decide,” she continues.

The pavilion will create an atmosphere reminiscent of Toguna huts of the Dogon people in Mali, West Africa | Serpentine Pavilion 2023 | STIRworld
The pavilion will create an atmosphere reminiscent of Toguna huts of the Dogon people in Mali, West Africa Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons, Taguelmoust (talk | contribs)

To be built with bio-sourced and low-carbon materials, the Serpentine Pavilion 2023 employs sustainably sourced timber ribs, arranged to support a suspended pleated roof. Reminiscent of the many lives blossoming beneath our feet, the concave lines of the timber construction's perimeter are inspired by the forms in the naturally occurring stems and canopies of adjacent trees. Rooted yet welcoming, the pavilion will greet the park and its visitors in its airy, open, gallery-like envelope, and is imagined to grow as an "adaptable system". The wooden architecture is conceived to be disassembled and reassembled at ease, “allowing it to live beyond its Serpentine site while holding the memory of its original ground,” adds the Lebanese architect.

Bettina Korek, Chief Executive, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, said: “We are thrilled to present Lina Ghotmeh’s first structure in the UK here at Serpentine next summer. Her design for À table draws on natural elements that reflect its surroundings in Kensington Gardens and expands on our mission of creating connections between architecture and society by promoting unity and togetherness in its form and function. We are endlessly grateful to our loyal partners and supporters, for making Ghotmeh’s brilliant concept for a Pavilion built from state-of-the-art sustainable materials into an inspiring reality, for the people of London and for our visitors from around the world to enjoy all summer. As Etel Adnan once told us, The world needs togetherness, not separation. Love, not suspicion. A common future, not isolation.”

Stone Garden: Resilient Living, An Archaeology of the Future imagined by Lina Ghotmeh | Serpentine Pavilion 2023 | STIRworld
Stone Garden: Resilient Living, An Archaeology of the Future imagined by Lina Ghotmeh Image: Courtesy of Lina Ghotmeh – Architecture

Lina Ghotmeh—Architecture, Ghotmeh’s eponymous practice based in Paris, France develops projects of global scale that bloom at the crossroads of architecture, art, and design. Considerate of social conditions, environments, and materials, her practice takes an in-depth 360° approach to its projects including thorough research on location history, typology of the place, materials, resources, and users' habits. She has often cited “architecture as a tool of resilience, the manifestation of togetherness,", of sharing spaces rather than owning or using them, and her fascination with her birthplace, Beirut.  

Throughout the next summer, the Serpentine Pavilion (supported by Goldman Sachs with additional support by Saint-Gobain), is set to become a dedicated stage for the coveted design event's programme which will feature Park Nights—the interdisciplinary platform for live encounters in music, poetry, spoken words, and dance, commencing alongside Serpentine’s education and civic activations.

This year’s Pavilion selection was made by Serpentine's artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist, CEO Bettina Korek, Director of Construction and Special Projects Julie Burnell, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Public Practice Yesomi Umolu, and Curator at Large Natalia Grabowska together with advisors Sir David Adjaye OM OBE and David Glover. “Serpentine would also like to acknowledge the work and dedication of the late British architect Richard Rogers to this yearly commission. Rogers was an integral part of the Serpentine Pavilion team and served as an Advisor since 2017,” shares the commission.

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