This year's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is designed by Japanese architect, Sou Fujimoto. A stunning white metal structure that reaches both horizontally and vertically into space, this year's pavilion expands imperceptibly and delicately outward as eight kilometres of white steel forged into squares modulates layers of density and near-transparency as if a cloud floating upon land.
With a footprint of 357 square metres, the pavilion is 24 metres at its widest point and 7.05 metres at its highest point from the ground. Lying in front of the Serpentine Gallery, this wonderfully aerial, latticed structure is built entirely of 20 millimetre steel poles which compose two sizes of grids--400 and 800 millimetres. These squares collectively create solid or transparent masses depending upon what angle the subject views or approaches the building: from certain perspectives the pavilion is more diaphanous, from other perspectives it is more opaque or somewhere in between. This structure, as Sou Fujimoto describes, is like a cloud shifting and moving under the sky. And at night this entire structure illuminates from the ground up. Like the repetitive scratches of lines from a pencil drawing which seeks to create density, the grid-like pattern of this pavilion creates various layers which together embody a dimensionality of radiance and darkness, lucidity and closure. In this way space is engaged differently from each vantage, forcing the subject to interact within a fixed social forum at certain moments and in other instances, the participant retains a sense of repose looking outward onto the park. Like a cloud, this construction moves between the abstract and the organic almost imperceptibly such that when the subject manoeuvres through this wondrous pavilion, she feels that space conterminously opens and closes.
In this morning's press conference, Sou Fujimoto recalls his dream of making an architectural installation at the Serpentine Gallery which this Saturday will be officially realised upon the pavilion's public opening. Inspired by the trees and people of Kensington Gardens, Fujimoto strives to create an 'artificial geometry' through a perfect balance between nature and architecture, his passion for the past ten years. Fujimoto relies upon a grid system to compose a sharp, translucent order to replicate the feeling of a forest and a crowd in creating a dichotomy of the artificial and natural order. This year's pavilion incorporates both horizontal and vertical social groupings set within the structural fittings of the white iron grid--its impact is delicate yet strong, its fine lines reach out and ever so gradually end. There is no roof per se in the pavilion; instead, the vertical stretch to the sky subtly terminates. Some areas are more translucent than others, opacity is created by the condensation of grid patterns that are created by the angle of viewing the structure. Fujimoto discusses how his grid design creates open and closed areas to integrate depths for the sunlight as well as social spaces with specific areas to relax since for him architecture should open up the possibilities for people to behave and move as they feel comfortable.
By his own admission Fujimoto concedes that this is a beautiful structure. However different from the digital corpus of the computing cloud, Fujimoto notes that this pavilion is analogue, viewing his creation as a duality of clouds: that of the more visible metallic structure and then the ostensibly invisible polycarbonate circles dispersed throughout the higher elevations which create myriad clusters of miniature, transparent rain barriers. These polycarbonate circles move with the wind and add a nuanced presence of delicacy and near invisibility to an already hyper-beautiful installation.
As I approached the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion this morning I grew increasingly convinced, with each step forward, that there is indeed heaven on earth. And I inhaled its beauty.