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Published: 8 Jun 2012

2012 Serpentine Pavilion’s Trip Down Memory Lane


This summer marks the 12th annual pavilion commission by the Serpentine Gallery in central London. It reunites creative heavyweights Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei – who originally collaborated in 2008 on the design of Beijing’s national Olympic stadium.

Quite literally delving deeper than any other previous pavilion, this year’s design will take visitors just below the surface of the Serpentine’s lawn, as if on an archaeological journey to discover the history of its previous pavilions.

Twelve columns, signifying the number of structures to date, support an expansive reflective floating roof that hovers 1.4 metres above ground. The gleaming disc-like platform also doubles as a rain collector – which is handy for the British summer. When the canopy is drained, it can even be used as a dancefloor. A cork-clad interior symbolises the excavated earth, and also, according to Herzog & de Meuron, has “great haptic and olfactory qualities”. It’s ability to acoustically deaden sound also helps to make those in the space feel as though they’re underground.

During the summer months the pavilion will function as a free public space that will also become the setting for Park Nights – the Serpentine Gallery’s annual programme of talks, film screenings and events. The programme is designed as an open forum for discussion on contemporary arts. The high point is set to be the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon in October – a whopping 24-hour session hosted by curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the gallery’s co-director of events and programmes.

The pavilion has been designed as part of the London 2012 Festival – the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad – and will be open to the public until October 14 2012.

Serpentine Gallery 

Herzog & de Meuron