Serpentine Gallery 2016; a visit

yesterday [Sat 18.06.2016] I went to see the BIG 2016 Serpentine Pavilion in Hyde Park. I was interested to see a BIG project in the flesh, as Bjerke Ingels seems to personify the post-Koolhaas/Hadid era of globalised sell-out, image focused, flippant architecture-as-fashion starchitecture that we all know and hate (with a touch of envy of those glamorous jet setting lifestyles).

It is bombastic in scale, and very aesthetic, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it still nuanced, and democratic - as Ingels has described BIG's intent. It's a lot of polycarbonate. It did not appear to be perfect; two men were abseiling, sticking panes into the boxes with copious amounts of sealant - assumedly this would have been more easily and neatly accomplished in the workshop, so must be the result of some afterthought. The positioning of these panes deep within the boxes cut down reflection to the point where they are literally invisible from further than a few metres. I'm reminded of criticisms of the (non-Utzon) glazing scheme on the Sydney Opera House - a significant visual barrier rather than transparent curtain.

No one was sitting on the outer cube wall - possibly because of the presence of the high vis men (who had appropriated the space as a large scale tool organiser), but more likely the cubes were a bit wet from the rain. There was also a cable looped across this zone, which I think is an unfortunate but probably necessary touch - the increasing gradient alone should be enough to let people know when they get to high, but organisational risk aversion runs rife.

Bits and pieces were being stored (temporarily?) in the cubes behind the bar as well, which to me was a nice blur of the boundary of the utilitarian demands of real life with the 'digital tech sculpture you can walk into'.

Ingels talks about the building as an 'unzipped wall'. I can't say it read like that to me; it was something more amorphous - perhaps more reminiscent of a torn paper bag, in spatial typological terms. It's the only Serpentine Pavilion I've been to; the program has been running since 2000 - so I can't offer an comparison - but this one seems wholly successful as an eye (and lens) catching centerpiece for the galleries' summer program.

there is also an interactive 3d model online; but it lacks the atmosphere, the contextually important form of the neighbouring gallery - and to me the pavilion looked a bit squashed, and lacks the slender vertical proportion of the real thing.


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