Wednesday23 August 2017

Serpentine pavilion scheme fails to uncover foundations

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Plans have been used to recreate the foundations of previous pavilions

Foundations of previous structures at the Serpentine pavilion will have to be rebuilt if this year’s design by Herzog & de Meuron is to meet promises made by the Swiss architect.

The old foundations are at the heart of the design for the site in Kensington Gardens which was revealed to the public this week. The Serpentine said: “This year’s pavilion will take visitors beneath the Serpentine’s lawn to explore the hidden history of its previous pavilions.”

Under the idea, Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, which has teamed up with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, said they will reveal the previous foundations of the past 11 pavilions for their own which opens at beginning of next month.

The pair said: “All of these foundations will now be uncovered and reconstructed. The old foundations form a jumble of convoluted lines. A distinctive landscape emerges out of the reconstructed foundations which is unlike anything we could have invented.”

But rather than the “distinctive landscape” promised by the pair, pictures taken by BD this week of the excavated site in Hyde Park show nothing but soil and gravel – with no obvious foundations visible.

A spokesman for the Serpentine said because Kensington Gardens were a Royal Park the remnants of previous pavilions, including foundations, have had to be removed.

He admitted the team on the job was now using the plans of the previous pavilions to recreate the foundations for the latest design. “We have accurate plans for that site for each of the 11 buildings that have gone before. By overlaying these 11 plans we can see where those foundations have been.”

But he said the plans were not being used to recreate the foundations. “The architect has used these plans to find a new shape.”

In all, a dozen columns – representing past pavilions as well as the current one – will support a floating platform roof 1.4m above the ground. The roof will be filled with rainwater designed, according to Herzog & de Meuron, to reflect “the infinitely varied, atmospheric skies of London”. The interior of the pavilion will be clad in cork.


Readers' comments (40)

  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    Just as I was saying. There is NOTHING under there.

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  • I must be stupid, I don't undertsand this article? What does it mean?

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  • You would have thought that as this was such a fundamental part of their design that they would have thought to check with the Serpentine what had happened when each previous pavillion was removed. Basic research, but perhaps top flight international architects don't need to do this!

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  • Ah, so it will be an artist's impression of what the foundations might have looked like. Sounds like a large part of the design has come to nought, for want of a bit of research with the Serpentine estate managers.

    And what might distinguish this "recreation" from pastiche?

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  • Designed rainwater ------mmmmmmmmm that's new!

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  • This sounds like something from Nathan Barley.
    So we'll like rebuild the lost foundations, yeah? and it'll be like a monument to something yeah?

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  • marianna cavada

    I would think that the foundations of a pavilion or a temporary structure are not that deep, therefore not evident after several excavations. That would come as a first thought, even before testing the grounds.

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  • Ouch.

    I'm sure it will still be interesting however.

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  • lisungroup


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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    The naiveté of the original proposal is astonishing. Didn't the architects know, or couldn't someone have told them, that this is Hyde Bloody Park and that there are no sewers, cables, foundations, or anything else under there other than the service runs to the Serpentine Pavilion, and that none of the previous pavilions had any foundations? I'm open-mouthed at the basic incompetence.

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