The beauty of the ugly thing | Íñigo García Odiaga

Summer pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery, 2012, Herzog & de Meuron

Since it has happened every year from 2000, on June 1, 2012 there was opened the public the summer pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery of London. The Pavilion of 2012 has been realized by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The equipment that was responsible for the most emblematic building of the Olympic Games of Beijing 2008, the nest, the Olympic stadium, meets again in London in 2012 to solve the challenge of the Serpentine, an appointment marked already in the architectural calendar and that tries to re-live in the London 2012, a species of cultural Olympiad.

The idea of constructing a summer pavilion in Kensington’s gardens that surround the Serpentine Gallery divided in the year 2000 of the director of the entity Julia Peyton-Jones and with the passage of time it has turned into an international event for the architectural experimentation and has presented offers of some of the best architects of the world. Every pavilion is constructed in the garden of the gallery for three months and they are the points of item as the immediacy, the ephemeral thing, as well as the time dedicated to project with a maximum of six months between the invitation and the inauguration of the pavilion, which the only model provides in the world.

Summer pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery, 2012, Herzog & de Meuron

The pavilion, to the being a temporary structure, without program, opened and of free form, gives freedom to the designers to maximize the innovation, to construct a manifest, a work that could reflect the critical thought of the author, his position before the current moment and the future of the architecture, the landscape or the nature.

It is precisely this position of manifest the one that grants more value to this event and though it seems to be contradictory, not all the elevated pavilions these 12 years have managed to succeed with this message. Toyo Ito in 2002, or SANAA in 2009 managed to construct pavilions that proposed a speech, a position, more than a building. Of equal way Peter Zumthor in the edition of last year managed to move to the London gardens great part of his ideology, formalizing a contemporary cloister capable of generating an interior atmosphere independent from the city that was surrounding it. But the history of these ephemeral architectures also takes his small failures as that of Oscar Niemeyer in 2003 or that of MVRDV in 2004. Or maybe the most showy, of Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura in 2005, which technological jaima, beyond the own interest of the project, was far much from his personal tours and was turning out to be inexplicable as a concentrated summary of the offer of both Portuguese teachers.

The pavilion of this year, which will remain opened until October 14, reflects well his condition of intellectual position. In fact the building might be considered to be like ugly, abrupt or if it is wanted uncontrollable, but it is not possible for against denying his condition of ideology, of ideological offer.

The Pavilion of this year takes the visitors below the lawn of the garden of the Serpentine, to explore the secret history of his previous pavilions. Eleven columns that they characterize to every pavilion of the past and a column that represents the twelfth structure, the current one, give support to a ceiling floating platform that one finds to 1,4 meters over Kensington’s meadows. The cover resembles the one that the archeologists place to protect his discoveries during an expedition. It floats over the grass of the park, and allows that a water sheet of 15 should stagnate on her cms, water fills, turns into a mirror that reflects the atmospheric skies of London. For special events, the water can be drenada and this way the cover transforms in a dancing floor, in a scene or simply in a platform suspended over the park.

Summer pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery, 2012, Herzog & de Meuron

The interior of the pavilion is redressed in cork, a material and cheap of construction sustainable, chosen to throw this message and to represent the condition of land excavated of the interior of the pavilion.

As Jacques Herzog has commented:

“As we excavate in the land we meet a diversity of constructed, such realities as cables of telephone, water conductions, electricity companies or previous foundations. As an equipment of archeologists, identify these physical fragments as the remains of eleven pavilions constructed between 2000 and 2011. His form changes: circular letters, lengths and straits, props or big holes. These remains give testimony of the existence of the ancient pavilions and his major or minor intervention in the natural environment of the park.”

The old foundations form a tangle of involved lines, a distinctive landscape like archaeological ruins but in this case ruins of extreme modernity. The reality in three dimensions of this landscape is impressive and is a perfect place to sit down, to stop, to go to bed or simply to look. In other words, it is the ideal environment to continue doing what the visitors have come doing in the Pavilions of the Serpentine Gallery in the last eleven years.

This pavilion speaks local, of the area, of the soil on that we tread and of how the architecture affects it, but also he speaks about the beauty of those things that were never thought to be seen as the foundations. The foundations do not have ornament, are a direct expression of a need and maybe in this austerity of the ugly thing, of the essential thing, his beauty is precisely, as in the pavilion of Herzog, of Meuron and Ai Weiwei.

Summer pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery, 2012, Herzog & de Meuron

íñigo garcía odiaga . architect

san sebastián. juny 2007

It´s published in ZAZPIKA 12.06.07

Íñigo García Odiaga

Doctor Arquitecto y profesor asociado de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSASS. Editor de NOMU. 1/5 del estudio de arquitectura VAUMM. Vivo en Donosti.

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