Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei Reveal Designs for 2012 Serpentine Pavilion
May 8, 2012
Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei have released plans for their collaborative design for the 2012 Serpentine Pavilion. The project, which will be featured in the London 2012 Festival to close this summer’s Olympic Games, recreates the same creative partnership that produced the Bird’s Nest for the Beijing Olympics four years ago. The team’s surprisingly offering is a conceptual archaeological excavation of the ground, which has seen the erection and dismantling of works by the luminaries such as Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer, and SANAA.
The structure will dig down five feet down into the site to reveal the “traces” left by pavilions past. In doing so, it will make physical, if only temporarily, the archive through which the previous 11 projects are collected and “preserved”. The fabricated landscape, which will be clad with cork (“a natural material with wonderful haptic and olfactory qualities with the versatility to be carved, cut, shaped and formed”), transforms the ghostly footprints of these predecessors into a veritable topography, marked by grooves, angled voids, and tiered, extruded surfaces to allow for seating. A thin, reflective roof coated in a film with water is suspended overhead 1.4 meters (4.5 feet) above the subterranean site, supported by 12 columns each of which has been shaped by the convergence of the “convoluted lines” that comprise the resultant “sewing pattern” form.
The pavilion will also collect London rainwater and funnel it into a waterhole, the deepest point of the “site”, to engage the “otherwise invisible aspect of reality in the park”– the water beneath the ground–and, thus, further accentuating the project’s time-capsule like quality. The methodology employed by the pseudo-archaeologists is reminiscent of Peter Eisenman and Jacques Derrida’s collaborative (and terrible) entry for the 1982 Parc de la Villette competition in Paris, which similarly constructs an affected “excavated” site of so-called traces and fragments to establish a history of place.
In a statement, the designers note how the pavilion’s form is “a serendipitous gift”, one that will offer a “perfect place to sit, stand, lie down or just look and be amazed.” Or even dance, it seems, as the floating roof can be drained to be used as an elevated platform for parties. The team hope that the project’s versatility and its programmatic variance will prove “the ideal environment for continuing to do what visitors have been doing in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilions over the past eleven years – and a discovery for the many new visitors anticipated for the London 2012 Olympic Games.”