written by:
March 21, 2014
Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Oscar Niemeyer, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid: Architecture’s best have all tackled the summer design challenge of building a temporary pavilion for London's Serpentine Gallery.
2013: Sou Fujimoto
2013: Sou Fujimoto

Called a “cloud of steel,” Fujimoto’s gorgeous grid, assembled from 28 kilometers of white poles, is almost translucent. The barely visible roof, built from clear polycarbonate discs, ruffled in the breeze.

Photograph © 2013 Jim Stephenson

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2012: Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei
2012: Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

A curious retrospective, this subterranean design dug beneath the site’s lawn to explore the history of previous Pavilions. A cork-clad interior, ringed with a dozen different column (one for each previous design), was created with sustainability in mind, with materials and color reflecting the excavated earth.

Photograph © 2012 Iwan Baan

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2011: Peter Zumthor
2011: Peter Zumthor

Wrapped in stark, black wood, Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s Serpentine scheme presented a frame for Piet Oudolf’s lush garden, a use of color and space that manages to create a secret garden in an already outdoor space.

Photograph © 2011 Walter Herfst

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2010: Jean Nouvel

2010: Jean Nouvel

The French’s architect’s non-so-subtle contribution to Serpentine featuring striking, cantilevered walls of red steel, and one of the more colorful table tennis tables we’ve seen in awhile. He told The Guardian it was inspired by the moment “when the summer sun catches you full in the eyes and, as you blink, the world dissolves into red."

Photograph © 2010 Philippe Ruault

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2009: Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA
2009: Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA

An abstract steel sunshade, which floats like smoke amidst the trees, was the focus of the Japanese architect’s 2009 design, support on slight columns like a parasol on a warm spring day.

Photograph © 2009 Edmund Sumner/VIEW

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2008: Frank Gehry
2008: Frank Gehry

Inspired by da Vinci’s drawings of wooden catapults as well as seaside huts, Gehry’s vision for the Pavilion, his first built structure in England, was another signature, angular construction, a gorgeous glass-and-timber fractal floating above the ground.

Photograph © 2008 Nick Rochowski

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2007: Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen
2007: Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen

Resembling a top or a space-age slide projector, the Scandinavian duo’s design was ringed with a ramp lined in twisting white suppots, which looked outwards towards the park, and inwards to a sloping pavilion with custom upholstery and inflatable furniture.

Photograph © 2007 John Offenbach

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2006: Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond, with Arup
2006: Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond, with Arup

This massive, egg-shaped orb, like a blimp about to achieve flight, lit up Kensington Park during the summer of 2006, with a roof that literally floated free of the main structure. The structure played host to an array of event and live broadcasts, including a day-long discussion featuring Koolhaas dishing with leading designers, philosophers and filmmakers about the hidden levels of London.

Photograph © 2006 John Offenbach

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2005: Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Cecil Balmond – Arup
2005: Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Cecil Balmond – Arup

Siza’s scheme, an array of timber joints and solar panels, created a breezy space to relax in the park during the summer, which generated enough power to become a beacon of light in the evening. Appearing as a simple grid pattern from outside, the structure becomes a striking, curved space inside.

Photograph © 2005 James Winspear

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2003: Oscar Niemeyer
2003: Oscar Niemeyer

Niemeyer’s steel, aluminum and concrete contribution, a low-slung white roof introduced with a ruby-red ramp, showcased the Brazilian legend’s contrasting design and love of curves, and included a series of his own wall drawings inside. Partially submerged, the building seems to float on its base.

Photograph © 2003 Sylvain Deleu

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2002: Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond, with Arup
2002: Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond, with Arup

A mathematical equation rendered in space, this intriguing white cube, and the maze of open space, razor-sharp lines and polygons, was devised from the algorithms of a cube.

Photograph © 2002 Sylvain Deleu

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2001: Daniel Libeskind with Arup
2001: Daniel Libeskind with Arup

Libeskind’s aluminum origami, entitled 18 Turns, was engaging, a jointed metal sculpture that viewers wanted to pick up and twist

Photograph © 2001 Sylvain Deleu

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2000: Zaha Hadid
2000: Zaha Hadid Hadid’s design, the inaugural Pavilion piece, played with materials and meaning, brining an airy white tent made out of steel to the park.

Photograph © 2000 Helene Binet

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2013: Sou Fujimoto
2013: Sou Fujimoto

Called a “cloud of steel,” Fujimoto’s gorgeous grid, assembled from 28 kilometers of white poles, is almost translucent. The barely visible roof, built from clear polycarbonate discs, ruffled in the breeze.

Photograph © 2013 Jim Stephenson

Once a quaint spot for an afternoon tea in Kensington Park, London’s Serpentine Gallery has become a nexus of the art and architecture world. The work of luminaries such as Man Ray, Basquiat, Warhol, Kapoor and Koons has graced the gallery, while the temporary summer pavilion, an annual highlight of the architectural world, has given legends from Niemeyer to Koolhaas space to play, their experimental and daring commissions becoming centerpieces that help attract more than 300,000 visitors annually. Chilean architect Smiljan Radic’s winning design for 2014 is only the latest in a series of incredible structures.

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