Ike Ijeh’s verdict: Junya Ishigami’s Serpentine Pavilion

Ike ijeh smiling

This year’s pavilion has its flaws and yet contains enough joy to convince BD’s critic that the series should continue into its third decade

Has the Serpentine Pavilion had its day? That is the question some are perhaps unfairly but inevitably asking in light of this week’s tempestuous opening of the 2019 edition.

Initially planned to be unveiled to the press earlier this week the launch was unceremoniously postponed when Serpentine CEO Yana Peel resigned suddenly in the face of lurid accusations about her investor husband’s business and political interests. This followed earlier revelations that this year’s commissioning designer, Japanese architect Junya Ishigami, routinely used unpaid interns to staff his Tokyo office, although the Serpentine, with probably more hope than certainty, insisted that only paid employees worked on the pavilion.

All of this contentious indignation would matter a great deal less in the publicity sphere if the Serpentine Pavilion was a stunning work of architecture. But here too there are difficulties. For this year’s commission Ishigami has installed a swelling mound of slates on the ground that forms a single canopy roof structure appearing to rise like a scaly, geological crust from the earth.

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