A giant semi-translucent boulder has appeared in Kensington Gardens London, with the opening of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radić. Is it a boulder or a shell? Or both? Externally it appears as a huge boulder sitting on quarry stones, but close up it appears as a shell with a thin skin and shattered edges that provide entrances and views out.
The design has links back to Radić’s earlier work, particularly The Castle of the Selfish Giant in Santiago, inspired by the Oscar Wilde story, and the Restaurant Mestizo, also in Santiago where part of the modern structure is supported on large boulders. Its simplicity and natural form is an interesting contrast with the previous pavilions, many of which have been more architecturally complicated. In some ways it relates to the 2012 pavilion designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei which also sought to provide a landscaped design that connected with its location and the earth beneath.
“I’ve always thought that this is a really symbolic place,” Radić told journalists at the press view. “For me this pavilion is a folly, and the folly historically is a romantic place, a place of extravagance and a place of atmosphere. So this pavilion had to both occupy and create a symbolic place.”
“From the outside, visitors see a fragile shell in the shape of a hoop suspended on large quarry stones. Appearing as if they had always been part of the landscape, these stones are used as supports, giving the pavilion both a physical weight and an outer structure characterised by lightness and fragility.”