architect: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

location: London

year: 2016

photo by Iwan Baan

Since 2000, every year the Serpentine Gallery has commissioned a temporary summer pavilion to a significant international architect. Over the years great names have succeeded among them Zaha Hadid, Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Nouvel, Herzog & de Meuron, Sou Fujimoto. In 2016 the firm they chose Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) (Copenaghen/New York). In addition, the pavilion will be joined by four Summer Houses designed by Kunlé Adeyemi – NLE (Amsterdam/Lagos), Barkow Leibinger (Berlin/New York), Yona Friedman (Paris) e Asif Khan (Lonon).
The Serpentine Pavilions are temporary structures, but they have always helped to trigger a debate on the future of contemporary architecture as well as being temporary spaces in which to organize artistic events. The context is that of the Kensington Gardens, a place where architecture meets nature and also an audience that every year interacts, always in a different way depending on the shape of the building, with a continuously surprising pavilion.


general plan
general plan


Bjarke Ingels and his team have decided to work on a architectural basic theme reinterpreting it in contemporary and above all temporary way. The brick wall is here proposed in a three-dimensional form: there is a module, that of the bricks, positioned so as to achieve a sculptural object, an exaltation of three-dimensionality. Even the material they used, just to maintain a temporary character, is much lighter then brick: fiberglass frames. During this summer, from June 2 to September 11, the concept of the wall will stop being surface to turn into space.



photo by Iwan Baan
photo by Iwan Baan


For the Serpentine Pavilion 2016, we have attempted to design a structure that embodies multiple aspects that are often perceived as opposites: a structure that is free-form yet rigorous, modular yet sculptural, both transparent and opaque, both box and blob. We decided to work with one of the most basic elements of architecture: the brick wall. Rather than clay bricks or stone blocks – the wall is erected from extruded fiberglass frames stacked on top of each other. The wall is pulled apart to form a cavity within it, to house the events of the Pavilion’s programme. The unzipping of the wall turns the line into a surface, transforming the wall into a space. A complex three-dimensional environment is created that can be explored and experienced in a variety of ways: inside and outside. At the top, the wall appears like a straight line, while the bottom of it forms a sheltered valley at the entrance of the Pavilion and an undulating hillside towards the park.
The unzipped wall creates a cave-like canyon lit through the fiberglass frames and the gaps between the shifted boxes as well as through the translucent resin of the fiberglass. As a result, the shifting overlaps as well as the movement and presence of people outside create a lively play of light and shadow on the cave walls within.
The materials include wooden floors and extruded Lay Light by Fiberline profiles, providing every surface with a warm glow and linear texture – from the mesh of woven glass fibers to the undulating lines of the grain of the wood.



This simple manipulation of the archetypical space-defining garden wall creates a presence in the Park that changes as you move around it and through it. The North-South elevation of the Pavilion is a perfect rectangle. The East-West elevation is an undulating sculptural silhouette. Towards the East-West, the Pavilion is completely opaque and material. Towards the North-South, it is entirely transparent and practically immaterial. As a result, presence becomes absence, orthogonal becomes curvilinear, structure becomes gesture and box becomes blob."