The Serpentine Pavilion 2021 will open in two days. After having seen its opening delayed by a year – due to the pandemic and restrictions -, the 20th pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens, commissioned by the Serpentine Galleries, will officially open its doors on Friday 11 June.
Since 2000, the Serpentine Galleries have commissioned an architectural firm or architect to design a pavilion to be developed over 6 months and presented to the public during the 3 summer months. This year’s project was entrusted to Counterspace Studio in Johannesburg. This choice made Sumayya Vally – founder of the studio – the youngest architect ever to be entrusted with the Serpentine Pavilion.
The design of the pavilion is intended to be a meeting place in many ways. Obviously it will be a place for people to meet and exchange, with the elements inviting the public to occupy the space and experience it. This will also be possible thanks to a programme of events that will animate the place throughout the summer.
But the encounter also takes place between different architectural styles. Sumayya Vally has taken inspiration and inspiration from several significant buildings in London, symbols of intercultural exchange and tradition, such as the first mosques built in the city, the Fazl Mosque and the East London Mosque, cooperative bookshops such as Centerprise, Hackney, but also entertainment venues such as The Four Aces Club on Dalston Lane, The Mangrove restaurant and the Notting Hill Carnival.
Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, Interior View © Counterspace Photo: Iwan Baan Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, Interior View © Counterspace Photo: Iwan Baan
“The forms in the Pavilion are a result of abstracting, superimposing and splicing elements from architectures that vary in scales of intimacy, translating the shapes of London into the Pavilion structure in Kensington Gardens. Where these forms meet, they create a new place for gathering in the Pavilion.”
From a technical point of view, the Serpentine Pavilion 2021 is constructed from reclaimed steel, cork and wood covered in micro-cement. The use of these materials has resulted in a variety of textures and shades ranging from pink to brown that are a direct reference to London’s architecture.
Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, Design Render, Interior View © Counterspace
For the first time, however, the pavilion is not confined to Kensington Gardens, but extends to different parts of the city. Four fragments of the structure have been placed in as many sites in London that are fundamental to Counterspace’s work: New Beacon Books in Finsbury Park, one of the first black publishers and booksellers in the UK; The Tabernacle in Notting Hill, a multi-purpose venue and community centre; The Albany arts centre in Deptford; and the new Becontree Forever Arts and Culture Hub at Valence Library in Barking and Dagenham.
Fragment of Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace for The Albany, Deptford © Counterspace Photo: George Darrell Fragment of Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace for Valence Library © Counterspace Photo: George Darrell
This operation always follows the theme and aim of the pavilion, which is to create a place to meet, exchange and feel part of something bigger.