2012 Serpentine Pavilion design team revealed

February 8, 2012

Herzog & de Meuron and Ai WeiWei commissioned for twelfth annual Serpentine Pavilion.

Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron will team up with Chinese artist Ai WeiWei to design the 2012 Serpentine Pavilion in London, it has been announced.

The design team behind Beijing’s national stadium – known as the Bird’s Nest – will again join forces to produce the 2012 summer pavilion, a temporary building that will be constructed outside the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens for the duration of the British summer.

The commission comes four years after the completion of the award-winning Bird’s Nest stadium – which served as the main venue for the Beijing Olympic Games. Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones and co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist said this commission would provide a link between the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and the forthcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London.

“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.”

Beijing National Stadium. Photograph by Iwan Baan


Herzog & de Meuron and Ai WeiWei’s 2012 pavilion will explore the history of the previous installations, taking visitors below the lawn. Eleven columns representing each past pavilion, along with a twelfth to represent this year’s structure, will support a platform roof 1.5m above ground.

Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ai WeiWei said of their concept: “Like a team of archaeologists, we identify these physical fragments [beneath the lawn] 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… 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.”

The 2012 pavilion will be the twelfth iteration of the Serpentine Pavilion. Commissioned annually by the curators of the Serpentine Gallery, the pavilion series invites architects – most of whom have no completed buildings in the UK – to design a temporary architectural pavilion in the park, outside the main gallery.

Pritzker Prize winners Herzog & de Meuron have a number of built projects in the UK, including the Tate Modern in London; however this will be their first collaborative project with Ai WeiWei to be realised in the UK.

Previous pavilions have been built by renowned international architects including Peter Zumthor (2011), Zaha Hadid (2000), SANAA (2009), Jean Nouvel (2010) and Oscar Niemeyer (2003).

The 2012 pavilion will be open from June to October, and will form part of the London 2012 Festival.

Images courtesy Serpentine Gallery

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