Architectural Archaeology With Herzog & de Meuron And Ai Weiwei

<p>The design team responsible for the Beijing National Stadium want to take you beneath the Serpentine’s lawn.</p>

Each year the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Hyde Park commissions an architect to work their creative magic and design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, resulting in a variety of unusual and elaborate spaces designed by people at the top of their game. Looking at the names of those who created previous pavilions reads like a who’s who of living starchitects—Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Oscar Niemeyer, Rem Koolhaas, Frank Gehry, and Jean Nouvel.

If you should happen to find yourself being commissioned, it’s safe to say you’ve made it! This year, as has happened previously, the work is a collaboration between an artist and an architecture firm. And, because you can’t do anything in London this year without it having an Olympic theme, this year’s piece will be created by the designers of the Beijing National Stadium, built for the 2008 Olympic Games, Herzog & de Meuron and the ever-beleaguered Ai Weiwei.

The work, part of the London 2012 Festival, is due to open to the public next Friday, the 1st June, and will involve taking the public “beneath the Serpentine's lawn to explore the hidden history of its previous Pavilions,” taking in the illustrious subterranean heritage. Or, what’s left of it. The project will be a form of architectural archaeology. The team will excavate to groundwater level, creating a well which collects rainwater. As they dig down, they’ll reveal elements of past pavilions—11 in total. Telephone cables and physical fragments and cork will be used to line the trenches that they dig, with the roof of the piece covered in water.

Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei say:

The old foundations form a jumble of convoluted lines, like a sewing pattern. A distinctive landscape emerges out of the reconstructed foundations, which is unlike anything we could have invented; its form and shape is actually a serendipitous gift.

On the foundations of each single Pavilion, we extrude a new structure (supports, walls) as load-bearing elements for the roof of our Pavilion –11 supports all told, plus our own column that we can place at will, like a wild card. The roof resembles that of an archaeological site. It floats a few feet above the grass of the park, so that everyone visiting can see the water on it, its surface reflecting the infinitely varied, atmospheric skies of London. For special events, the water can be drained off the roof as from a bathtub, from whence it flows back into the waterhole, the deepest point in the Pavilion landscape.

Check out the concept designs below.


Images: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012
Designed by Herzog & de Meuron & Ai Weiwei
© 2012, by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei