In Depth

The Serpentine: perfect constructs

The latest annual pavilion, by a Dane, stacks up well, and four international architects take on the English summer house

Visit the Serpentine Gallery in London this summer and you won't be able to miss the latest addition to its lawn. The imposing 16th Serpentine Pavilion was designed by Dane Bjarke Ingels. Subverting a fundamental element of architecture, the brick wall, the modular construction is made from 1,800 fibreglass cubes stacked on top of each other, with a yawning cavity within.

The annual commission, conceived by director Julia Peyton-Jones, has been a world-renowned site for architectural experimentation since the inaugural pavilion was created by Zaha Hadid in 2000. Over the past 16 years, pioneering international heavyweights such as Daniel Libeskind and Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron have been tasked with the same brief: to design a 3,200sqft edifice that can be used as a cafe by day and a space for education and entertainment by night. 

This year, in addition to the main pavilion, the gallery has also commissioned four additional architects to create a 270sqft summer house. Sponsored by leading residential property developer Northacre, the exhibition presents four eclectic structures, each inspired by Queen Caroline's Temple – a classical-style example designed by William Kent in 1734 and located just a stone's throw from the gallery.

Kunle Adeyemi's creation is a modern, inverse replica of the temple, appearing to have been tipped on its side. Asif Khan's design engages similarly with the positioning of the original, catching as it does the sunlight from the nearby Serpentine Lake. Barkow Leibinger, in contrast, looked for inspiration to another pavilion by Kent, which was able to be rotated so as to give 360° views of Hyde Park. Yona Friedman's modular metal construction, meanwhile, can be assembled and disassembled in different formations – the ultimate in user-friendly architecture.

The Serpentine Pavilion and Summer Houses 2016 will be on display until 9 October; serpentinegalleries.org

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