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Monday, August 02, 2010

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2010 in London, England by Jean Nouvel

Photographs are by Philippe Ruault.

Summer is the season for temporary pavilions focused on architectural experimentation. MoMA P.S.1's courtyard installation (the 11th in the Young Architects Program) "Pole Dance" opened its short run about a month ago. Last month also saw the opening of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London's Hyde Park. Designed by Jean Nouvel, the 2010 pavilion is the Gallery's 10th commission, and it also marks the 40th anniversary of the Serpentine Gallery, "one of London's best-loved galleries for modern and contemporary art."

The Pavilion "has become an international site for architectural experimentation and follows a long tradition of Pavilions by some of the world’s greatest architects," including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Toyo Ito, SANAA, and others. It's certainly a who's-who list of today's starchitects, making the Pavilion basically architectural experimentation by architects who experiment. Freed from that darn hindrance called function (minus sitting and gathering), the architects are able to pursue whatever strikes their fancy. Here Nouvel is enamored with red.

A quick glance at Nouvel's design in project form reminded me of his Brembo Research Office in Italy. A bright red wall stands out in the landscape along the Milan-Venice Highway in the Brembo project; in London every material and surface is rendered a single shade of red, allowing the Pavilion to stand out in its Hyde Park landscape. Press releases reference the design to the ubiquitous double-decker buses and phone booths in the city, but I don't see Nouvel going that route. I imagine Bernard Tschumi's Parc de la Villette as a reference, but I think the architect is basically just trying to immerse the visitor in an environment defined by color and light.

Nouvel calls it "The Red Sun Pavilion." He describes the design of lightweight structure with surfaces of fabric and plastic as "a red filter...A HAZE OF RED...RED EXPLODING AGAINST GREEN." Transparent red enclosures filter the Hyde Park surroundings, surfaces actually labeled "SKY" and "GREEN" in reference to the flattening of everything into one color. Under tents, even the green floor bleeds red in the right light. Like P.S.1's summer installation, Nouvel has created something about experience more than theory or (computer) process or form.

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