The Serpentine Gallery has announced its 2012 Pavilion designers and they come with an Olympic pedigree. The prestigious commission has been awarded to Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei who previously collaborated on the Beijing National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Previous Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei collaboration, Beijing National Stadium. Photo: PA
The Serpentine Pavilion has been an annual feature in Kensington Gardens since 2000 showcasing work by some of the world's foremost architects (Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry...). The Pavilion also plays host to the fashionable Serpentine Summer Party.
So what are the latest design team planning for this summer's Pavilion? The Swiss architecture firm and the Chinese artist will be getting archaeological beneath the Serpentine lawn with a design which pays tribute to the eleven previous commissions.
Speaking of their concept, Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei described their determined efforts to avoid the problem of creating a concrete object:
"Our path to an alternative solution involves digging down some five feet into the soil of the park until we reach the groundwater. There we dig a waterhole, a kind of well, to collect all of the London rain that falls in the area of the Pavilion. In that way we incorporate an otherwise invisible aspect of reality in the park – the water under the ground – into our Pavilion.
"As we dig down into the earth we encounter a diversity of constructed realities such as telephone cables and former foundations. Like a team of archaeologists, we identify these physical fragments as remains of the eleven Pavilions built between 2000 and 2011."
So what happens when the previous foundations have been uncovered?
"On the foundations of each single Pavilion, we extrude a new structure (supports, walls) as load-bearing elements for the roof of our Pavilion – eleven supports all told, plus our own column that we can place at will, like a wild card. The roof resembles that of an archaeological site. It floats some five feet above the grass of the park, so that everyone visiting can see the water on it, its surface reflecting the infinitely varied, atmospheric skies of London. For special events, the water can be drained off the roof as from a bathtub, from whence it flows back into the waterhole, the deepest point in the Pavilion landscape. The dry roof can then be used as a dance floor or simply as a platform suspended above the park."
And if that tickles your fancy (as it does ours) you'll be able to see the Pavilion in action from June-October 2012 when it will be functioning as a public space as well as the venue for PArk Nights - a programme of talks and events curated by the Serpentine.
To see a selection of previous Pavilions, click through the gallery below: