Open from June to October 2012, the Pavilion was presented as part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. The Pavilion was Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei's first collaborative built structure in the UK.
The 2012 Pavilion took visitors beneath the Serpentine's lawn to explore the hidden history of its previous pavilions. Eleven columns characterising each past pavilion and a twelfth column representing the current structure supported a floating platform roof 1.5 metres above ground. The Pavilion's interior was clad in cork, a sustainable building material chosen for its unique qualities and to echo the excavated earth. Taking an archaeological approach, the architects created a design that inspired visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures.
The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion operated as a public space and as a venue for Park Nights, the gallery's high-profile programme of public talks and events. Connecting to the archaeological focus of the Pavilion design, Park Nights culminated in October with the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon, the 2012 edition of the annual Serpentine Marathon series conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist. The Marathon series began in 2006 with the 24-hour Serpentine Gallery Interview Marathon; followed by the Experiment Marathon in 2007; the Manifesto Marathon in 2008; the Poetry Marathon in 2009, the Map Marathon in 2010 and the Garden Marathon in 2011.
The 2012 Pavilion was purchased by Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal and entered their private collection after it closed to the public in October 2012.
'This is, quite simply, the best summer Pavilion there's been at the Serpentine' - Time Out