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Wednesday30 July 2014

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.

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Readers' comments (40)

  • It sounds like this year's pavilion will be a practical joke of the architect and his artistic designer.

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  • zecks_marquise

    zhang - that's what it is every year

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  • Sebastian Cuff

    If they made the hole much larger, they could with a bit of luck find some of the Crystal Palace's foundations, what?

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  • http://www.herzogdemeuron.com/index/projects/complete-works/376-400/400-serpentine-gallery-pavilion/IMAGE.html

    At least the design process looks like it was jolly good fun.

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  • venn diagram of best laid plans with worst laid foundations= design travesty.

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  • wish I could get vast fees for this sort of crap

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  • hold on a minute, guys, I've got an idea.

    If we just make this an 'invitation only' event,
    put screening all around the site,
    make a lot of banging and crashing noises,
    say that we found invisible ancient foundations,
    tidy up and 'make good as before
    we could declare this wondrous 'art installation' a great success and rake in the fees and the 'cost of the works' !!!
    great idea, eh?

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  • I think the author of the article and other commentators have managed to seriously misunderstand the architects' intentions....commonsense would suggest that the reference to excavating foundations is a conceptual conceit and shouldn't be taken literally....

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  • if it is not to be taken literally, then what governs the actual design concept? should it be complex for the sake of it and a 'lie', or just a dug out pit with nothing to reveal and therefore 'truthful'? If it's the latter, and i fear it is, they should forget about the puddle roof, flood the pit and make a kiddies paddling pool- i'm sure aldo van eyck would agree.

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  • I would suggest that a design based solely on a 'conceptual conceit' has nothing to do with common sense

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