Serpentine Pavilion 25 Jun — 18 Oct 2015 Free

In 2015, Serpentine Galleries celebrated the 15th anniversary of the world-renowned Pavilion commission.

The 2015 Pavilion went on to show at La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles.

The Serpentine Pavilion has become an international site for architectural experimentation, presenting inspirational temporary structures by some of the world’s greatest architects. A much-anticipated landmark in London each summer, the Pavilion is one of the top 10 most visited architectural and design exhibitions in the world.

In 2015, Spanish architects selgascano designed the 15th Serpentine Pavilion. The award-winning studio, headed by José Selgas and Lucía Cano, was the first Spanish architecture practice to be asked to design the temporary Pavilion on the Serpentine’s lawn in London’s Kensington Gardens. In keeping with the criteria of the scheme, this was the studio’s first new structure in the UK. The Pavilion was an amorphous, double-skinned polygonal structure consisting of panels of a translucent, multi-coloured fluorine-based polymer (ETFE) woven through and wrapped like webbing. Visitors could enter and exit the Pavilion at a number of different points, passing through a ‘secret corridor’ between the outer and inner layer of the structure and into the Pavilion’s brilliant, stained glass-effect interior.

Serpentine Galleries Director, Julia Peyton-Jones and Co-Director Hans Ulrich Obrist said: ‘We are proud to work with selgascano in this, the 15th year of a commission unique in the western world that continues to showcase some of the boldest and innovative designs in contemporary architecture internationally. In keeping with their reputation for playful designs and bold use of colour, selgascano’s structure will be an extraordinary chrysalis-like structure, as organic as the surrounding gardens. We can’t wait to go inside to experience the light diffused through the coloured panels like stained glass windows. It will be a place for people to meet, to have coffee and to experience the live events we put on throughout the summer.’

The architects described their design: ‘When the Serpentine invited us to design the Pavilion, we began to think about what the structure needed to provide and what materials should be used in a Royal Park in London. These questions, mixed with our own architectural interests and the knowledge that the design needs to connect with nature and feel part of the landscape, provided us with a concept based on pure visitor experience. We sought a way to allow the public to experience architecture through simple elements: structure, light, transparency, shadows, lightness, form, sensitivity, change, surprise, colour and materials. We have therefore designed a Pavilion which incorporates all of these elements. The spatial qualities of the Pavilion only unfold when accessing the structure and being immersed within it. Each entrance allows for a specific journey through the space, characterised by colour, light and irregular shapes with surprising volumes. This is accomplished by creating a double-layered shell, made of opaque and translucent fluorine-based plastic (ETFE) in a variety of colours. At the heart of the Pavilion is an open space for gathering as well as a café. We are also very much aware of the Pavilion’s anniversary in our design for the 15th annual commission. The structure therefore had to be – without resembling previous Pavilions – a tribute to them all and a homage to all the stories told within those designs.’

The architects’ inspiration not only came from the site itself, but from the ways in which people move through London, notably the Underground, with its many-layered, chaotic yet structured flow. selgascano’s design follows Smiljan Radić’s Pavilion in 2014, which was likened by many to a spaceship resting on Neolithic stones. Previous architects include Sou Fujimoto, 2013; Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, 2012; Frank Gehry, 2008; Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond, with Arup, 2006; Oscar Niemeyer, 2003; Daniel Libeskind with Arup, 2001; and Zaha Hadid, who designed the inaugural Pavilion in 2000.

As with previous Pavilion commissions, the brief was to design a flexible, multi-purpose social space with a café that is open to all throughout the summer. Previous selgascano projects include the amorphous Plasencia Auditorium and Congress Centre, Cáceres; the light filled harbour-side structure of El ‘B’, Cartagena Auditorium and Congress Centre; the playful floating shapes of Mérida Factory Youth Movement. selgascano’s work is characterised by a use of synthetic materials and new technologies, often rarely applied to architecture. Taking inspiration from Luis Barragan and Richard Rogers, the architects use distinctive colours and references to nature throughout their designs. Their belief that architecture is secondary to nature also informs the design course on Nature and Climatology that they teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and their work on the Educational and Medical Pavilion in Turkana, Kenya.

Selgas and Cano, who formed the practice selgascano in 1998 in Madrid, have completed the majority of their buildings in Spain through a diverse range of commissions. The studio has worked on a number of projects worldwide, including Pip House, Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles; the renovation of Texas Square in Oranjestad, Aruba, Lesser Antilles; and La Canaria House, Mount Washington, Los Angeles.

Exhibiting at the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, as well as MOT, Tokyo, and the Design Museum, London, selgascano was chosen for the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010, curated by Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA, architects of the Serpentine’s 2009 Pavilion. selgascano has designed the interior of Second Home, a revolutionary new workspace for London’s creative industries in the heart of London’s technology quarter in Shoreditch.

Between June and October 2015, Serpentine Galleries presented Park Nights, the annual series of performance, music, film, dance and literature. The 2015 Park Nights included new commissions conceived specifically for the Serpentine Pavilion designed by selgascano. José Selgas and Lucía Cano took part in a discussion, Fifteen years of the Pavilion Commission, with Sou Fujimoto, Smiljan Radić and Sarah Ichioka. A Pavilion family day, A Space Base for Instance, invited participants to leave Earth and re-imagine our collective future. And the Build Your Own Pavilion competition invited young people aged 8 to 14 to submit their Pavilion designs online and at workshops across the UK during the summer of 2015.

Dance artist Nefeli Skarmea invited family audiences to experience the structure in a physical way through the Pavilion Family Pack 2015.

Architects selgascano created an animation to show their design process for the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion called The Hungry Pavilion.

The Serpentine is delighted that Goldman Sachs was the headline sponsor of the 2015 Pavilion. AECOM, in collaboration with David Glover, again provided engineering and technical design services. While this was the third Serpentine Pavilion for AECOM, David Glover had worked on the designs for the majority of the Pavilions to date.

Fortnum & Mason set up a cafe in the Serpentine Pavilion with a menu that included fresh salads and sandwiches, cakes and pastries and an array of ‘Park Snacks’.


Discover over 50 years of the Serpentine

From the architectural Pavilion and digital commissions to the ideas Marathons and research-led initiatives, explore our past projects and exhibitions.

View archive