The Serpentine Pavilion 2014
2 Jul 2014
This years temporary pavilion succeeds at many levels.
It is an organic form that sits happily in its faux natural landscape, the framed views and diffused light of the interior make for a very comfortable space.
Not all of the pavilions have been as successful, the best are clearly temporary, lightly touching the landscape they occupy, Peter Zumthor’s (2011) was one of the high points for me.
There is a rich tradition of small pavilion-like buildings in the park, the Serpentine Gallery, the Magazine and the boathouse for example. There is also a fine example of British modernism by Patrick Gwynne at the east end of the Serpentine lake, originally known as The Dell.
This petal like structure deserves better, now operated by Benugo, it could be the most magical bar and restaurant in London. It floats like a lily pad on the water of the lake affording great views across one of London’s finest man-made landscapes.
At the other end of the lake near the Diana Memorial Fountain and across the road from Smiljan Radic’s pavilion there is a car park. This was created in 1990 when the extraordinary decision was made to demolish another great Patrick Gwynne building, the Serpentine Restaurant, built in 1964.
It seems extraordinary that this happened, there is no doubt that today it would have been re-appraised and seen as an important modernist structure. An inventive restaurateur would have made this unique building a London landmark.
The same cannot be said for the Zaha Hadid extension to the old Battery building. Despite its clever manipulation of daylight in the restaurant space, it is a bombastic and unfortunate addition, providing a difficult to use and poorly planned dining room that overpowers the simple grace of the listed structure it extends. It has none of the sensitivity of the best temporary pavilions, Toyo Ito, SANAA Zumthor, Sou Fujimoto.
Sadly it is permanent, but one day an enlightened traffic engineer from the Royal Parks might decide that it is the ideal place for a car park.