Is Radic's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion the weirdest so far?

Jun 25, 2014

Critics can't decide if it looks like a large delicate eggshell, a 60-tonne pebble or a giant doughnut

Leon Neal

This summer's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion has been described as "the weirdest yet" by critics, who cannot decide if it looks more like a giant doughnut or an alien space-pod. 

Designed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic (pictured below), the 14th pavilion opens tomorrow for four months in Kensington Gardens as a 200-seat cafe and venue for music, poetry, film and literature.

"The mollusc has landed," says Richard Morrison in The Times. "Or maybe it's an alien space-pod that has somehow come to rest daintily on a seemingly random array of granite boulders."

The outside of the structure offers a "disconcerting merging of futuristic and prehistoric, outdoors and indoors, high-tech and rustic, organic and artificial", and the inside is "even stranger", says Morrison. "You feel as if you are walking through a cave held together by glue and masking tape (of which Radic speaks fondly)."

The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright describes it as "weirdest structure yet" to have graced the west London lawn. "Unless you are familiar with life as a moth in the pupal stages, it is unlikely you'll have been in anything quite like it." He also compares it to the "site of a pagan ritual" and a "60-tonne pebble".

Radic, a relatively unknown architect outside Chile, says he wanted to "make it look like it came from the hands of a giant". He built up the shell like papier-mache, with strips of fibreglass layered on by hand to form a skin just one centimetre thick. Once inside, or when seen by night, it glows with a yellowish tinge.

Giving the structure a four-star review, the Daily Telegraph's Ellis Woodman describes it as a "giant doughnut". What is most captivating about Radic's "heroically peculiar pavilion" is the way that it "seems to stand out of time", says Woodman.

In the Evening Standard, Robert Bevan says he would like to see the "somewhat cartoonish" edges of the "large delicate eggshell" roughened up a bit more and the grass around the pavilion allowed to grow "meadow-wild as it does in other areas of the park". Nevertheless, he concludes that it tends to be the more abstract pavilions that work best, making "the cerebral Radic an excellent choice".   

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