Serpentine Pavilion 2018 designed by Frida Escobedo

Every year since 2000, the Serpentine Gallery has commissioned temporary summer pavilion by a leading international architect. The pavilions are the works of renowned figures in architecture who have not yet completed a building in England at the time of the commission. This year, the young Mexican architect, Frida Escobedo was commissioned to design the Serpentine Pavilion and it is a stunning woven tapestry of concrete tiles that features an interplay between water, light and geometry.

Escobedo’s design includes aspects of both Mexico and Britain, using British materials to create her take on Mexican architecture, she has also taken inspiration from the Prime Meridian line. The Pavilion is comprised of two rectangles that have been positioned t a particular angle. The outer walls are aligned with the Serpentine Gallery, while the Pavilion’s pivoted axis refers to the Prime Meridian, located in Greenwich, which is the global standard marker of time and geographical distance. Combining aspects of both British and Mexican heritage and the global time reference, presents a structure that belongs to no person or place in particular; the Pavilion belongs to everyone.

The curved underside of the pavilion’s canopy is created from dark mirrored tiles, while along one of the outer walls, a shallow triangular pool of water traces the line of the canopy along the north axis of the Meridian. Escobedo chose to work with the Prime Meridian as she wanted to create something that would not only be site specific to Kensington Gardens, but to wherever it is moved to after the summer.

The concrete tiles of the Pavilion walls are a hard material, and yet the structure still maintains a sense of softness, with care and attention woven into each raw, industrial segment of the structure. The reflective surfaces distort the reflections creating new and exciting images each time you visit; the pavilion will constantly change with each visit, according to the visitors’ perceptions, the weather and personal thoughts and experiences with the pavilion. The water can be seen as the ocean, which is occupied by hundreds of tradespeople and goods being transported back and forth across it, referring to the passage of time and travel. The pool is also aesthetically pleasing, creating a refreshing and calming atmosphere for viewers.

Due to the materials Escobedo used in the creation of the structure, the Pavilion will be in a state of constant change and it will never be complete. Escobedo is inspired by ruins of old buildings and thus, she has only completed the first half of the Pavilion; the rest is left to the weather, and the wear and tear of the people that visit it. The building is, in fact, comprised of raw materials and will rust and start to chip away over time. Entertaining an inevitable demise, Escobedo’s ambition for the pavilion to become a “ruin” is completely contradictory to what an architect should aspire to create. The intended evolution of the Pavilion is built on a central theme of uncontrollable forces such as space and time.

Though simple materials have been used the design of the Pavilion, it is a complex geometric structure. The UK-manufactured tiles have been strategically placed in a very specific pattern that from certain angles, when the light slips through, the walls appear transparent. Architecture is always transforming over time but this structure transforms in a mere matter of seconds. Through the gaps in the tiles, visitors can catch a glimpse of the vibrant green trees of the Serpentine courtyard and Kensington Gardens but only need to move slightly and their view is hindered. The Pavilion has a feel to it that is simultaneously opaque and translucent - you can and you can’t see through it; it is not neither here nor there and makes for a visual journey rather than a fixed resting place.

The Pavilion is ultimately a distortion of space and time and it is never going to be the same thing twice. It could also be compared to a giant architectural Russian doll. Parks are a place inside a city, that take you out of the city. The Pavilion is a place inside the park (that is inside the city taking you out of the city) that takes you out of the park, while inside the park. The whole concept is incredibly complex, but no less should be expected of this highly talented architect.

Escobedo’s Pavilion is truly a stunning harmony of both British and Mexican influences, it will no doubt serve as a space for people of all cultures to reflect and enjoy, be it in London this summer or wherever it ends up next, in whatever form it takes.

The Serpentine Pavilion by Frdia Escobedo will be open in Kensington Gardens until 7th October 2018.  More information may be found here.