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The Serpentine Pavilion 2015: by SelgasCano

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on September 18, 2015 at 03:52 PM

Serpentine Galleries in Hyde Park, London this year celebrates the 15th anniversary of the world-renowned Pavilion commission with a daring design by Spanish architects José Selgas and Lucía Cano (SelgasCano)! The intriguing design has elicited varied responses from those who have seen it or read about it - some have called it a "plastic trashbag monster", and others have noted its "blast of candy-coloured sweetness"! The Spanish duo, inspired by the multi-layered and sometimes chaotic network of the London underground, have conceived the pavilion as a design encompassed by 'secret corridors' - and used  a minimal steel frame wrapped in multi-colored ETFE sheets and webbing - to execute their fantastical idea.

© Courtesy of Internet Sources

The Serpentine Pavilion 2015

Each summer the Serpentine Galleries, London invites an internationally renowned architect to create their first built structure in England on the grounds of Hyde Park in the form of a temporary structure known as the Serpentine Pavilion. The immediacy of the process – a maximum of six months from invitation to completion – provides a unique model for commissioning architecture. The selection of the architects, chosen for consistently extending the boundaries of architecture practice, is led by the thought of introducing contemporary artists and architects to a wider global audience. Serpentine Galleries this year celebrates the 15th anniversary of the world-renowned Pavilion commission with a design by Spanish architects selgascano. Since its launch, the Serpentine Pavilion has become an international site for architectural experimentation, presenting inspirational temporary structures by some of the world's greatest architects, including Zaha Hadid, who designed the inaugural Pavilion in 2000. 

The brief to SelgasCano was, as always, to design a 300 square metre Pavilion that can used as a café by day and a platform for learning, debate and entertainment at night. There is no budget for the project: it is realised through sponsorship, help-in-kind support and the sale of the Pavilion. Their design for the 15th Pavilion, reveals an amorphous, double-skinned, polygonal structure consisting of panels of a translucent, multi-coloured fluorine-based polymer (ETFE) woven through and wrapped like webbing. Visitors can enter and exit the Pavilion at a number of different points, passing through a ‘secret corridor’ between the outer and inner layer of the structure and into the Pavilion’s colourful interior. The concept for the pavilion’s design not only came from the site itself, but from the ways in which people move through London, notably the London Underground with its many-layered, chaotic yet structured flow.

About the architects

The little-known Spanish architects were chosen for their ability to showcase some of the boldest and innovative designs in contemporary architecture internationally. In keeping with their reputation for playful designs and bold use of colour, selgascano’s design is an extraordinary chrysalis-like structure, as organic as the surrounding gardens. It is a place for people to meet in and to relax and to experience the live events held at regular intervals over the three and half months the pavilion stands. In the words of the architects, “We sought a way to allow the public to experience architecture through simple elements: structure, light, transparency, shadows, lightness, form, sensitivity, change, surprise, colour and materials.” José Selgas and Lucía Cano established SelgasCano in Madrid, Spain, in 1998. selgascano studio has completed the majority of its buildings in Spain through a diverse range of commissions, and their work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; GA Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Design Museum, London, among others. The architects were also chosen for the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010, and again for the Spanish Pavilion 2012, an exhibition which brought together the work of seven Spanish architects. In 2013 they won the Art prize awarded by the Akademie der Kunste, Berlin and were pronounced 'Architects of the Year' by the German Design Council. 

About the engineers

AECOM, in collaboration with David Glover, once again provided engineering and technical design services for the Pavilion for third time. According to them “We pushed engineering innovation to its limits to meet the architects’ goal of movement and lightness. Our minimalist steel frame provides the canvas for the colourful cladding to deform and deflect within a dynamic structure… We took an innovative approach to achieving the architects’ vision of a multicoloured kaleidoscope by printing the Pavilion’s 19 colours onto the ETFE. The engineering challenge is further intensified by the tight project timescales: from the moment the first shovel hits the ground, the Pavilion must be delivered in just seven weeks. Creating a temporary building brings no fewer challenges than if it were permanent. People want to use the space in exactly the same way.”

The enduring legacy of the Serpentine Gallery aside (the much-anticipated landmark is one of the top-ten most visited architectural and design exhibitions in the world), the architects themselves see the project as a work-in-progress, “a chance to really experiment hard and push a material to its limits”. In the words of Cano, “It’s not a finished building; it is a sketch for something else that may emerge.” Like some of the pavilions before it, this structure will have a second life and may well be adapted by the company Second Home that has plans to rebuild the pavilion in LA when it is dismantled at the end of the summer. Thus even though the look and intent of the pavilion maybe playful, the functional and cultural aspects it must fulfill make it a very serious matter indeed. 

The Serpentine Galleries Summer Season is Supported by The Lars Windhorst Foundation, Serpentine Pavilion sponsored by Goldman Sachs, Advisors AECOM With David Glover, Supported by Stage One, Gold Sponsor Weil, Julia Peyton-Jones (Director and Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes) and Hans Ulrich Obrist (Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects)

Designer : SelgasCano, Spain
Photography :Courtesy The Serpentine Galleries

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