Tomorrow, the latest Serpentine Gallery Pavilion opens to the public in Kensington Gardens. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron describe their Basel, Switzerland–based firm’s collaborative effort with Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei for their pavilion in London as an archaeological excavation of previous pavilions. Their work exhumes underpinnings of the 11 past exhibits on the same site, with columns extending from a single remnant of each to support the 2012 pavilion’s roof: “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,” say the architects. This roof, which collects a thin, reflective layer of rainwater, can also be drained to form an elevated platform for events and happenings. Beneath it, the designers sculpted a new topography out of the reclaimed foundations and covered the entire surface in cork, a material that the trio chose for its feel and smell, as well as its sustainability.
Ai Weiwei also worked with Herzog & de Meuron on the Beijing National Stadium (aka The Bird’s Nest) in China as part of the 2008 Olympic Games. This exhibition will coincide with the London 2012 games, as well as the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, which will bring artists from around the world together in the United Kingdom. The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion will remain open to visitors through October 14.