Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by SANAA 10.07.09

words Johanna Agerman

The roof of SANAA's Summer Pavilion by the Serpentine Gallery in London is like a giant spill of quicksilver, spreading between the trees of Kensington Gardens. It is made from polished aluminium and reflects the park in a distorted fashion. "It amplifies the beauty of the surroundings," says Ryue Nishizawa, one half of the Japanese practice. "Even the way people move looks very nice in this reflection."

The aluminium roof is supported by stainless steel poles, the floor is cast in light grey concrete and the undulating walls are acrylic. The pavilion is outlined with a thick line of white shingle and plays on SANAA's usual preoccupations with transparency, reflection and the monochrome.

As in many of SANAA's other buildings, the pavilion has no central point. Instead it sprawls in all directions and can be viewed as a roofed promenade between the trees. It very cleverly uses the space, making it seem like nature is customised to the pavilion rather than the other way around.

"We started out with non-architectural ideas such as water, the rainbow and leaves to create the space. This is how we came up with the organic shape for the roof," says Nishizawa. The roof varies in height from only 1m off the ground ("Like a table," says Kazuyo Sejima, SANAA's other partner) to 3.5m over the space that is used for talks in Serpentine's Park Nights programme.

The pavilion is SANAA's first structure on British soil. It's the ninth year of the Serpentine Gallery's initiative to erect a temporary summer pavilion on its lawn, which started with Zaha Hadid in 2000.

images Luke Hayes

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