Every year, new pavilions by famous architects are exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery in London.
Let’s zoom in: from the edge of outer space, we are looking down at Europe – to be more precise: at the British Isles. Even from this height, the world metropolis, London, strikes us immediately due to its huge dimension. Looking more closely, we notice a large green area in the metropolitan area: Hyde Park. One of the largest and, alongside the New York Central Park, certainly most famous inner-city parks. Speakers' Corner contributes an important part towards its worldwide fame.
Speakers' Corner is situated in the north-east corner of the park and is as such quite unimpressive and unspectacular: a round, green pavilion, which is home to a kiosk. But of course, the fascination of Speakers' Corner cannot be explained by a location – it is the people that are fascinating, those that stand on crates and stepladders and give speeches at the top of their voices – unfiltered, uncensored and on any topic possible. Ever since 1872, anybody is allowed to make his opinion known without prior appointment. And even if one mainly gets to hear obscure things here, Misters Marx, Lenin and George Orwell appeared here as speakers. The Serpentine Gallery, which is located only a few metres away in Kensington Gardens, directly bordering Hyde Park, displays astounding parallels to the concept of Speakers' Corner.
The Serpentine Gallery owes its name to the lake with the same name, which both Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are home to. The art museum was founded in 1970 and predominantly exhibits modern art. The gallery is located in a neoclassical teahouse dating back to 1934, situated on the south banks of the Serpentine. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery has formed part of the museum since 2013. To this end, an old gun powder magazine, “The Magazine”, which is located on the opposite side of the lake and which was last used merely for storage, was renovated and expanded in a spectacular way. Zaha Hadid, who unfortunately suddenly died in March 2016, renovated the classical-style magazine with caution – the historical building was kept in its original appearance. In contrast, the architect who has received many awards, placed an extension at the side of the old building with its straight lines and many right angles, which couldn’t be more contrasting. A snow-white construction reminding of a tent was stretched out as a roof, flowing and dynamic. It appears to be weightless, like a falling linen sheet. This lightness is supported by window fronts, some of which be strongly curved, that create a feeling of being outside from the inside. In any case, light and transparency are a key topic. The white, fibreglass roof is translucent and the five conic-organic building supports shaped as a furrow guide daylight into the room. As light as a feather and light, “The Magazine” is an excellent piece of architecture. The trench heating units by Kampmann also contribute towards this. Kampmann supplied custom-made special ducts, which precisely adopt the dramatic curves of the window front. Of course, this could also have been done with mitred cuts, but anyone who sees the result now will understand the planners’ decision to fall back on a customised solution: The Katherm heating interpolates harmoniously with the whole and, besides heating, they also have a creative function.
But back to Speakers' Corner and its parallels to the Serpentine Gallery. Every year, since 2000, famous architects have been creating a temporary pavilion on the grounds in front of the old teahouse. And famous means: Daniel Libeskind, Oscar Niemeyer, Frank Gehry, Ai Weiwei, Herzog & de Meuron and others. Even Zaha Hadid had created a pavilion. Due to the fact that the constructions do not have to serve any practical use – i.e. they are free from any wishes a builder-owner may have or other bureaucratic regulations – the architects able to follow their heart, their vision. The results are equally as multifarious as fascinating. The pure expression of architectural creativity: avant-garde, thrilling and inspiring. Analogue to Speakers’ i.e. Architects’ Corner. Here you can see some of the pavilions of recent years:
Images: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Zaha Hadid @ Hélène Binet; Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Daniel Libeskind with Arup @ Sylvain Deleu; Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Oscar Niemeyer @ Sylvain Deleu; Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Frank Gehry @ Nick Rochowski/VIEW 2014; Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Herzog de Meuron and Ai Weiwei @ Iwan Baan; Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Sou Fuijmoto @ Jim Stephenson