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Planting Pavilions
It's SANAA for the Serpentine and a Brooklyn newcomer for the Art Fund
SANAA's Serpentine pavillion
Courtesy the Serpentine Gallery

In July, an undulating aluminum canopy threaded through the trees will open on the lawn of London’s Serpentine Gallery. Designed by Tokyo-based SANAA, the pavilion is the latest addition to the gallery’s high-profile roster of temporary
structures by prominent designers. Also opening this summer in London, the Art Fund Pavilion, from a competition-winning design by the young Brooklyn-based firm Tina Manis Associates, will serve as an annual seasonal gallery for the Lightbox in Woking, a contemporary art center founded in 1993, which opened its current home in 2007.

The 2009 Serpentine design is a stark departure from Frank Gehry’s weighty composition of wooden beams, steel, and fractured glass, built last year. True to their ongoing investigations of lightness, thinness, and surface, the SANAA pavilion is designed to blur the boundaries between architecture, landscape, and furniture. The canopy will rise overhead and dip down to table height, reflecting land and sky on its curvilinear planes. “For us it’s a dream come true to be working with SANAA, to be able to introduce their first built work in the UK,” said Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of the Serpentine.

Tina Manis's Design for the  Art Fund Pavilion offers selected views of the city and site as well as the art.
COURTESY tina Manis Associates

The SANAA design will be executed with the engineering help of Arup and SAPS. “The aluminum will be incredibly thin, thanks to our spectacular design and engineering team,” said Serpentine co-director Julia Peyton-Jones. The pavilion will open in July and will remain standing through October. Obrist and Peyton-Jones believe the design will allow for flexible programming, from impromptu picnics to formal symposia.

Unlike the Serpentine structure, which lasts only one season, the Art Fund Pavilion will be disassembled and reinstalled on site each summer. Made of structural plywood box panels with Finnply cladding, the structure is designed to display hanging and freestanding works, while providing seating space for 30, as well as event space. In order to accommodate the program while differentiating the space, Manis conceived of the structure as a ramp guiding the visitor through the pavilion and offering strategic views out to the city and the adjacent canal. “We are creating a new topography for a flat site,” Manis said. “The goal is to create a sense of movement, of dynamic engagement with the area.”

The project comes with a tight, £100,000 budget, but for Manis the commission is a breakthrough for her four-person firm into the realm of public, cultural projects. “It’s the scale and program we’re most interested in,” she said. The firm prevailed over entrants from around the world. “You rarely see opportunities like this in America for young, small firms. We’ll definitely be pursing this kind of work more diligently now.” The pavilion will be previewed in September at Tent London, a fair that is part of Design Week. It will be constructed on the Woking site in the spring of 2010.

The Serpentine pavilion is lighter and more diffuse than many of its predesecors.
Courtesy the Serpentine Gallery


Alan G. Brake