Zaha Hadid’s architecture has a reputation for remaining unbuilt in the UK. But last week her firm’s design for a new extension to the Sackler Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens received planning approval. The new design is not far removed from Hadid’s pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in 2000—the zig-zag form of which was only intended as a glorified marquee. Then Culture Secretary Chris Smith requested it stay open for three months instead of one week, unwittingly initiating what has become the annual Serpentine Pavilion series. Hadid’s latest structure, in addition to being permanent, is more refined and characteristically curvaceous. The new wing will hold a café-restaurant, and its single-roof surface rolls up and down in a soft wave formation, touching the ground at points, while its lightweight tensile skin is punctuated with skylights to keep the space naturally lit.
The new addition to the west of the building is part of a wider refurbishment of the interiors by Hadid that will breathe life into the 206-year-old, landmarked former armory. Altogether the project will open up over 9,500 square feet of galleries and social space, while the surrounding grounds will be designed by Gross Max, who also worked with Hadid on her first UK building: the Maggie Center in Fife. One of a handful of new projects in the UK—including the 2010 Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, the forthcoming Olympics’ Aquatic Center, and the recently opened Glasgow Riverside Museum of Transport—the Sackler Serpentine indicates long overdue support for the home-grown practice.