A stone serpentine: the Junya Ishigami pavilion in London

Temporary pavilion on the lawn of the Serpentine Gallery.

By now a well-established London summer event, the temporary pavilion on the lawn of the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens was entrusted this year to Japanese architect Junya Ishigami, who designed an undulating roof that seems to emerge from the surrounding park, covered entirely with slate tiles. The designer defines it as “a hill of rock”.

Between nature and artifice

Standing on the ground on the three tips of its triangular floorplan, the pavilion is inspired by the roof as an archetypal architectural element. In particular, it refers to the heaviness of slate roofs found in many parts of the world. As a result of its organic configuration, the pavilion appears at the same time light enough to be blown away by a breeze, yet heavy and imposing thanks to the stone material used for the coverage.

The 61 tonnes of Cumbria slate are supported by a slender steel structure comprising 106 very slim columns, which in turn support a wire meshing on which the slabs are installed. Underneath this roof, the spatial character of the pavilion resembles a cave, a refuge for contemplation. The pavilion articulates Ishigami’s philosophy of “free space” where one can seek harmony between structures created by man and those that already exist in nature.

A temporary pavilion

Junya Ishigami is the nineteenth architect to design a temporary pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery at the invitation of Art Director Hans Ulrich Obrist. This initiative began in 2000 with Zaha Hadid and has since presented the first structures in the United Kingdom by some of the top names in international architecture. In recent years, it has become an eagerly awaited showcase for emerging talent, from Frida Escobedo (Mexico) to Francis Kéré (Burkina Faso) and Bjarke Ingels (Denmark), whose 2016 pavilion was the most visited architecture and design exhibition in the world. Ishigami was born in 1974 and worked as an architect with SANAA before founding his own studio in 2004. Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennial in 2010, the dreamlike quality of his projects is well known, in its ability to incorporate the natural world of landscapes, forests and clouds: and natural stones!


Project: Junya Ishigami Associates
Design team: Junya Ishigami, Prem Lorenzen, Masayuki Asami, Gagas Firas Silmi, Jaehyub Ko
Location: Kensington Gardens, London
Completion: 2019
Images: © Junya Ishigami Associates


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