Smiljan Radic‘s design for Kensington Park Gardens is the crudest to date and has a rugged authenticity for it
“I feel like a giant made this model as a gift for London,” says Smiljan Radic at the opening of his Serpentine pavilion.
The Chilean architect isn’t wearing the trademark hessian robes in which he appears in publicity photos – which give him the appearance of a Bauhaus flower child or Jedi knight – and looks demure in a suit.
Radic created his own maquette out of papier mâché, wound with strips of masking tape. It has now been inflated, like a Claes Oldenburg sculpture, into an enormous glazed doughnut whose calorific solidity couldn’t be more different from Sou Fujimoto’s ethereal wire cloud shown on the site last year.
The structure sits like a messy cocoon over and on craggy slabs of Yorkshire stone, each placed neatly on a bed of wood chippings (the stone is the same hue as the nearby Fischli/Weiss sculpture, Rock on Top of Another Rock).
It is the crudest pavilion to date in the Serpentine’s series, and has a rugged authenticity for it. In 2011, Peter Zumthor covered his structure with hemp cloth, neatly glazed in tar. Radic has bandaged his erratically with strips of white fiberglass and, up close, you can see the rough Frankenstein stitching of the jagged edges. A steel light shaft has been punctured into the facade. One critic compared the surface to the crudely repaired hull of Robert Redford’s sinking yacht in All is Lost (2013).
Visitors enter the building up ramps decked in wood, via a scalloped entrance carved through the fiberglass. Inside, the skin is translucent, held up rather clumsily at two points – where the structure threatened to sag – by two pillars.
One notices how the light filters unevenly through the collaged material, which is stained and dribbled with glue. It almost looks like there are holes in places. Lights zigzag on a rail around a central funnel, which is hollow and open to the sky, and at night the structure is illuminated from within.
A UFO (or Ant Farm inflatable) has landed in Kensington Park Gardens.
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