'It is a really fundamental question how architecture is different from nature, or how architecture could be part of nature, or how they could be merged... what are the boundaries between nature and artificial things' - Sou Fujimoto
At 41, Fujimoto was the youngest architect to accept the invitation to create a temporary structure for the Serpentine Gallery. The Pavilion was constructed from 20mm white steel poles in an intricate latticework pattern that seemed to rise up out of the ground like a shimmering matrix. The Pavilion was intended as a free-flowing social space that Fujimoto described as “a transparent terrain”.
Fujimoto was the thirteenth architect to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, one of the most hotly anticipated events in the cultural calendar, and his shape-shifting structure added to an illustrious list of past pavilions designed by architects that include Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry and the late Oscar Niemeyer.
Occupying some 350 square-metres of lawn in front of the Serpentine Gallery, Sou Fujimoto's delicate structure had a lightweight and semi-transparent appearance that allowed it to blend, cloud-like, into the landscape and against the classical backdrop of the gallery's colonnaded east wing. Designed as a flexible, multi-purpose social space - with a café sited inside - visitors were encouraged to enter and interact with the Pavilion in different ways throughout its four-month tenure in London's Kensington Gardens.
Describing his design concept, Sou Fujimoto said: "For the 2013 Pavilion I propose an architectural landscape: a transparent terrain that encourages people to interact with and explore the site in diverse ways. Within the pastoral context of Kensington Gardens, I envisage the vivid greenery of the surrounding plant life woven together with a constructed geometry. A new form of environment will be created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural nor solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two".
"The Pavilion is a delicate, three-dimensional structure", he continues, "each unit of which is composed of fine steel bars. It forms a semi-transparent, irregular ring, simultaneously protecting visitors from the elements while allowing them to remain part of the landscape. The overall footprint will be 350 square-metres and the Pavilion has two entrances. A series of stepped terraces will provide seating areas that will allow the Pavilion to be used as a flexible, multi-purpose social space. The delicate quality of the structure, enhanced by its semi-transparency, will create a geometric, cloud-like form, as if it were mist rising from the undulations of the park. From certain vantage points, the Pavilion will appear to merge with the classical structure of the Serpentine Gallery, with visitors suspended in space."
Fujimoto was the third Japanese architect to accept the invitation to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, following Toyo Ito in 2002 and Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA in 2009.