It's a tradition: each summer for the past twelve years, London's Serpentine Gallery commissions a different architect to design a pavilion on the adjacent park lands. It serves as an inspirational place to hang out, hear lectures and have a drink.
This summer will be a very special one: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has designed the building, along with the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. They worked together on the Beijing National Stadium, which was built for the 2008 Olympic Games so it is a clever idea to re-unite them again for the London 2012 Olympics.
There have been many super-star architects designing the pavilions, including Zaha Hadid, Oscar Niemeyer, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Zumthor and Jean Nouvel.
This building will be very inventive and ambitious.
The design envisions twelve columns (one for each past pavilion plus this one) which will hold up a floating reflecting pool. It will be 1.4 metres above the recessed ground and collect rain water. People in the park will be able to see it. It may also be drained to become a dance floor or event space.
The area underneath the pool will serve as a seating area. It will be clad in cork because it is a sustainable building material and it will reflect the colour of the excavated earth. In digging down to create this area, it is anticipated that bits of buried material and the foundations of previous pavilions will be found. In architect-speak that means: "Taking an archaeological approach, the architects have created a design that will inspire visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures."
As of today there has been one setback: they can't find any foundations from the past. Apparently " because Kensington Gardens was a Royal Park the remnants of previous pavilions, including foundations, have had to be removed."
There is always a full programme of talks, lectures, and events held in conjunction with the architects. They will be held in this semi-subterranean area. Which will be a blessing if the summer weather continues to be so rainy.
Ai Weiwei is familiar to TreeHugger readers. He is one of China's most famous and bravest artists. He is also one of the most controversial. His works are laden with political messages of protest, for which he has been pursued by the government. Ai Weiwei worked on the 2008 Bird's Nest Stadium and disassociated himself from the government and the propaganda of the Games, in protest over the lack of human rights in China.
Herzog & de Meuron are a Swiss architect team. They are best known for their conversion of a power station into the new Tate Modern art museum. They have done numerous large public projects and residential. They teach at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.