Build a summer pavilion, and they will come, posited London's Serpentine Gallery, which brought in Toyo Ito and Ross Lovegrove to do the honors
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 8/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
For the past three years, the Serpentine Gallery—a contemporary-art institution in London's verdant Kensington Gardens—has commissioned a multiuse summer pavilion for the front lawn. A stark contrast to the 1934 brick tearoom that now houses the gallery itself, the temporary structure is intended, first and foremost, to showcase a cutting-edge international architect who has never completed a building in the U.K. Second, on a more practical note, the pavilion must play host to a café and the gallery's program of lectures, films, and other special seasonal events (until September 29 this year).
In 2000, Zaha Hadid built a triangular-roofed, tentlike pavilion that, after its summer run, was purchased by the Royal Shakespeare Company for use as a stage. Last year, the raw energy of Daniel Libeskind and structural design firm Arup's labyrinth of aluminum and steel, dubbed 18 Turns, won widespread admiration, starting with a "top 10 buildings of 2001" citation from the British newspaper the Observer. Arup's London office has now returned to collaborate with Tokyo architect Toyo Ito and industrial designer Ross Lovegrove on the massive geometric sculpture currently enlivening the Serpentine's lawn.
Ito's scheme displays some rather inspired thinking outside the box—not to mention within the box. The aluminum-clad steel sheets composing the roof and walls are formed in abutting quadrilaterals of differing shapes and sizes. Leftover slivers of space between the solid panels are either left completely open for ventilation or glazed for weather protection. In case of gray skies or summer showers, up-lights supplement the natural illumination, and the roof is pitched 13 inches to let rainwater run off.
The open skin offers ample, if slightly off-kilter, views of the outdoors. "You lose the sense of being contained," project manager Mark Robinson says. "You feel like you're inside and outside at the same time, since the surrounding landscape is brought in." And he means that literally: Ito opened up parts of the floor to let a few patches of lawn peek through.
The ordering geometry and the connection between indoors and out are reiterated throughout the interior. White aluminum strips angled over the painted marine plywood of the floor pick up the crosshatching of the walls. Separating the kitchen and serving area from the main space, partitions painted a springy green further tie the interior to the surrounding park. Visitors can stop to marvel at the architecture from the café, featuring simple plywood-and-metal tables and an assortment of pieces by Lovegrove. His low polypropylene lounge chairs and stools are scattered about for additional seating according to the needs of each event, and his café chairs of the same material were produced in a custom green-and-white specially for the occasion.