The hotly anticipated annual Serpentine Pavilion has been unveiled in Kensington Gardens, London. In the 2018 feature, concrete is a key element with architect Frida Escobedo combining British and Mexican influences to develop a functional, visually stimulating pavilion using latticed concrete roof tiles.
First launched in 2000, the Serpentine Pavilion is an annual architecture commission that is produced within six months by an international architect or design team that has not completed a building in England at the time of the invitation. The commission is led by the Serpentine Gallery (where the pavilion is first unveiled), a London-based platform that showcases work by both recognised and emerging artists and architects. Since its inception, the pavilion has made the Serpentine Gallery into an international site for architectural experimentation.
In Escobedo’s pavilion, concrete roof tiles have been latticed to produce two overlapping rectangles with a central courtyard. These latticed walls resemble the breeze walls that are common in domestic spaces in Mexico. In addition, the design features a shallow pool and curving, mirror-clad canopy ceiling, which create a series of distorted reflections.
“These concrete tiles are woven, like a tapestry, in a very specific pattern that becomes transparent when the light is behind the wall,” Escobedo notes. The filtered light makes the lawn beyond blur in a variety of shades.
“It’s meant to be a compass that allows you to locate yourself,” says Escobedo, “not just geographically, but to give you a larger understanding of what social space can be.”
At 38, Escobedo is the youngest architect to receive the commission for the Serpentine Pavilion, as well as the first solo woman since renowned Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid designed the first pavilion in 2000. Several of her previous projects use concrete to produce complex, prominent features, including El Eco Pavilion, an installation in Mexico City, and renovations in the home of artist David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Visitors to the Serpentine Gallery may explore Escobedo’s design for the 2018 pavilion, with its distinctive concrete walls, before 7 October, when it will move to an as-yet-secret location.