The 2013 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion At Kensington Gardens Is Unveiled

Posted by Kate W on Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

The Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens is one of London’s most popular destinations for people interested in viewing modern and contemporary art, attracting upwards of 800,000 visitors each year. Their walls are not merely lined with paintings: their gallery space is often used to display the works of artists who take a multimedia approach to conveying their artistic message. The museum is currently home to a series of limited editions by the noted German feminist artist Rosemarie Trockel as well as the UK’s first solo exhibition of the work of Sturtevant, an American artist noted for recreating and reinterpreting the works of other famous artists in a variety of media.

A mockup of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 design by Sou FujimotoBut you don’t even have to walk into the Serpentine Gallery to get a taste of modern art: the gallery’s buzziest current exhibition is found outside its doors. For thirteen years, the gallery has invited a renowned international architect who has not yet built in the UK to design a temporary pavilion on the gallery’s lawn to host public activities from June through October. This past weekend, the gallery unveiled its latest design.

 At age 41, architect Sou Fujimoto is the youngest architect selected to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. He follows in the footsteps of several illustrious architects, many of whom have gone on to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Past luminaries selected for the honor include Frank Gehry (the man behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the New World Center concert hall) and Jean Nouvel (the designer responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi).

A visitor stands inside the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 design by Sou Fujimoto

What sets Fujimoto’s design apart from the eleven previous completed structures (the plans for the 2004 pavilion by MVRDV Architecture proved too costly and the structure was never built) is its inspiration. Though his design looks geometric and mechanical (it has been likened to a computer mainframe and a digital cloud) it was designed with nature in mind. At the pavilion’s unveiling last weekend, Fujimoto explained his inspiration:

“”I tried to create something – of course really artificial – but nicely melding together with these surroundings, to create a nice mixture of nature and architecture. This grid is really artificial, sharp, transparent order, but the whole atmosphere made by grids is more blurring and ambiguous, like trees or a forest or clouds. So we can have the beautiful duality of the artificial order and natural order.”

Visitors explore the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 design by Sou Fujimoto

The resulting structure is clean and modern, yet fanciful at the same time. Fujimoto likened his process to trimming a bonsai tree: he pruned away sections of his original grid plan during the design process in order to create nooks and crannies for visitors to explore, like bird’s nests on a rock face.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Fujimoto’s design is its transparency. Even though it is a visually striking piece of art, you can see through it at all angles, whether you’re within the steel matrix or standing on the outside. This dichotomy further underlines the ephemeral nature of this structure, which will be gone by this time next year only to be replaced by something new. Modern art is all about pushing boundaries and exploring new horizons. In its own way, so is nature: after all, the sun sets every day only to rise anew so we can begin again. Fujimoto’s work perfectly interprets the visceral yet ephemeral duality of nature through art.

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