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Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016

The Serpentine today reveals the designs for its expanded Architecture Programme for 2016: the 16th annual Pavilion designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). BIG’s design uses modular elements to create organic shapes: 1,802 elongated composite fiberglass frames are stacked to form two enclosing walls that are pushed outward or “unzipped,” to create a contoured, cavernous interior filled with simple geometric seating and a sculptural exterior.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-07-Radu-Malasincu-759x759 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

In tandem with the 16th Pavilion in 2016, the Serpentine Galleries has expanded its internationally acclaimed programme of exhibiting architecture in a built form by commissioning four architects to each design a 25sqm Summer House. The four Summer Houses are inspired by the nearby Queen Caroline’s Temple, a classical style summer house, built in 1734 and a stone’s throw from the Serpentine Gallery. In line with the criteria for the selection of the Pavilion architect, each architect chosen by the Serpentine has yet to build a permanent building in England.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-10-Iwan-Baan-759x506 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Iwan Baan

The Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), is an ‘unzipped wall’ that is transformed from straight line to three-dimensional space, creating a dramatic structure that by day houses a café and free family activities and by night becomes a space for the Serpentine’s acclaimed Park Nights programme of performative works by artists, writers and musicians.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-15-Radu-Malasincu-759x759 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

This year, the main pavilion by BIG will be accompanied by four additional structures, designed by architects Asif Khan, Yona Friedman, Barkow Leibinger, and Kunlé Adeyemi. The gallery itself was established in 1970 as a public space for leading artists and architects to display their work. Over the years, such renowned artists and architects as Man Ray, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, and Frank Gehry have been featured at the gallery, which draws 1.2 million visitors yearly.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-17-Radu-Malasincu-759x276 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

“We are delighted to reveal the designs for our expanded Architecture Programme. As you can see from the architect’s renders, Bjarke Ingels has responded to the brief for a multi-purpose Pavilion with a supremely elegant structure that is both curvaceous wall and soaring spire, that will surely serve as a beacon – drawing visitors across Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to visit the Pavilion, the Summer Houses and our major exhibitions by Alex Katz and Etel Adnan. The response to design a Summer House inspired by the 18th Century Queen Caroline’s Temple by our four international architects has been equally inspired and has produced four unique spaces for visitors to explore this summer.” – Serpentine Galleries Director, Julia Peyton-Jones, and Co-Director, Hans Ulrich Obrist, said

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-18-Radu-Malasincu-759x759 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

The Serpentine’s Pavilion commission, conceived in 2000 by Director Julia Peyton-Jones, has become an international site for architectural experimentation and has presented projects by some of the world’s greatest architects. Each Pavilion is sited on the Serpentine Gallery’s lawn for four months and the immediacy of the commission – taking a maximum of six months from invitation to completion – provides a unique model worldwide.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-20-Radu-Malasincu-759x759 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

The selection of the architects, chosen for consistently extending the boundaries of architecture practice, is led by the Serpentine’s core curatorial thinking, introducing contemporary artists and architects to a wider audience. The brief is to design a 300-square-metre Pavilion that is used as a café by day and a forum for learning, debate and entertainment at night. Serpentine Galleries will be partnering with Harrods for the 2016 Pavilion Café.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-27-Radu-Malasincu-800x1200 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

The Serpentine Pavilion is one of the top-ten most visited architectural and design exhibitions in the world. There is no budget for the project, it is realised through sponsorship, help-in-kind support and the sale of the Pavilion.

Based inside the Pavilion, the Harrods Café offers a contemporary take on the classic British summer park picnic with a menu inspired by dishes from Harrods’ Food Halls.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-32-Radu-Malasincu-759x506 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group:

For the Serpentine Pavilion 2016, we have attempted to design a structure that embodies multiple aspects that are often perceived as opposites: a structure that is free-form yet rigorous, modular yet sculptural, both transparent and opaque, both box and blob.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-37-Radu-Malasincu-874x1200 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

“We decided to work with one of the most basic elements of architecture: the brick wall. Rather than clay bricks or stone blocks – the wall is erected from extruded fiberglass frames stacked on top of each other. The wall is pulled apart to form a cavity within it, to house the events of the Pavilion’s programme. The unzipping of the wall turns the line into a surface, transforming the wall into a space. A complex three-dimensional environment is created that can be explored and experienced in a variety of ways: inside and outside. At the top, the wall appears like a straight line, while the bottom of it forms a sheltered valley at the entrance of the Pavilion and an undulating hillside towards the park.”

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-38-Radu-Malasincu-759x299 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

The unzipped wall creates a cave-like canyon lit through the fiberglass frames and the gaps between the shifted boxes as well as through the translucent resin of the fiberglass. As a result, the shifting overlaps as well as the movement and presence of people outside create a lively play of light and shadow on the cave walls within.

The materials include wooden floors and extruded Lay Light by Fiberline profiles, providing every surface with a warm glow and linear texture – from the mesh of woven glass fibers to the undulating lines of the grain of the wood.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-43-Radu-Malasincu-759x759 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Radu Malasincu

This simple manipulation of the archetypical space-defining garden wall creates a presence in the Park that changes as you move around it and through it. The North-South elevation of the Pavilion is a perfect rectangle. The East-West elevation is an undulating sculptural silhouette. Towards the East-West, the Pavilion is completely opaque and material. Towards the North-South, it is entirely transparent and practically immaterial. As a result, presence becomes absence, orthogonal becomes curvilinear, structure becomes gesture and box becomes blob.

Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2016-By-BIG-Bjarke-Ingels-55-Iwan-Baan-759x506 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels

© Iwan Baan

Project Data:

Project name: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion
Location: Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA, United Kingdom
Coordinates: 51.504573, -0.174457
Type: Pavilion, Installation
Materials: 1,802 elongated composite fiberglass frames
Project Area: 300 sqm
Status: Completed
Event Period: 10 June – 9 October 2016.
Completion Date: February 2016
Visit Serpentine Galleries’s website: here


  • 2017 – Architizer A+ Awards – Typology Categories: Cultural / Pavilions – Popular Choice Winners
  • 2016 – Civic Trust Awards – Pro Tem Special Award – Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Serpentine Galleries
Architects: BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group – Kløverbladsgade 56, 2500 Copenhagen, Denmark
Partners-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen
Project Leader: Maria Sole Bravo


  • Akt Ii, Big Ideas, Dinesen Gulve, Fiberline Composites A/s, Sapa Extrusions Denmark A/s


  • Aaron Powers, Alice Cladet, Claire Thomas, Daniel Sundlin, Jakob Lange, Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Kristian Hindsberg, Kristoffer Negendahl, Lorenz Krisai, Maria Holst, Maxwell Moriyama, Rune Hansen, Tianze Li, Tore Banke, Wells Barber

Text Description: © Courtesy of BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, Serpentine Galleries
Images: © BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, Serpentine Galleries, Iwan BaanRadu Malasincu, flickr-Iqbal Aalam


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Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2016 / BIG - Bjarke Ingels
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