Gehry Tapped to Design Serpentine Pavilion

January 22, 2008

By Lucy Bullivant

The Serpentine Gallery, in London, has chosen Frank Gehry to design this year’s summertime pavilion. Gehry is the first American to be commissioned to design the structure, which he will realize in four months for a June launch. Taking the form of an innovative temporary structure fully accessible by the public, it will house a café by day and events and receptions by night for three months.

Gehry meets one of the gallery’s selection criteria, which is that an invited architect shall not have built in England yet. He joins a roster of internationally renowned designers who have created these pavilions, which attract more than 250,000 visitors each summer. They include Rem Koolhaas, Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura, Oscar Niemeyer, Toyo Ito, Daniel Libeskind, and Zaha Hadid. Last year the Serpentine invited an artist-architect team, Kjetil Thorsen, of Snøhetta, and Olafur Eliasson, who produced a successful and popular result, but the gallery’s decision to choose only a building architect to design the pavilion returns the program to its original concept. To help realize these projects, the gallery also invites Cecil Balmond, of Arup, to be part of the creative team.

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Details of Gehry’s concept and a firm opening date have yet to be determined, but the commissioning process allows a maximum of just six months from invitation to completion, which demands that the concept for the Serpentine’s parkland context—in Kensington Gardens—be simple and buildable as well as demonstrate a unique treatment of space and materials. Two schemes, by Frei Otto and MVRDV, have not gone forward since the Serpentine began inviting pavilion designs in 2000.

Gehry has built one other project in the U.K.: Maggie’s Centre, one of a series of buildings designed for outpatient cancer care clinics in Dundee, Scotland. The King Alfred sports and residential development, in Hove, West Sussex, is in development after a planning decision reduced its height and massing. Gehry’s clients at Hove are developers Karis/ING, the property arm of the Dutch bank ING, which previously worked with Gehry on the Dancing Building, in Prague.

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