This year's Serpentine Gallery pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, is near completion. The structural frame and the timber and glass panels that form the pavilion are in place, and when I visited on Saturday workmen were busy laying down the tiling and putting finishing touches to the auditorium-like space under the timber structure.
The pavilion seems to be a nostalgic return to Gehry's earlier work, particularly the use of exposed timber structures and the random angles of the planes that form the "roof." It is still an impressive structure, and certainly Gehry has taken more risks than previous architects in having a completely open structure. If the weather continues to be like this in London, he might regret this. However, the gesture clearly shows the thought that has gone into the space, with multiple levels and an auditorium feel to the space.
Several architects in the past have treated this as a purely sculptural exercise with no particular attention to how the space works as a whole, and this I must say is this pavilion’s strongest point. This remains to be verified when the pavilion is completed next week, but the shaping of the ground plane and the enclosure seem to work together spatially. Various architects in the past have been tempted to deal with the pavilion as 'decorated shed,' Gehry breaks away from that.
One distinctive feature of the pavilion is the unnecessarily heavy timber structure. Made up of heavy timber beams that are tied together, it contrasts with the slender panels suspended from this heavy frame at different angles. Gehry claims different sources of inspiration, but it seems a suitably idiosyncratic gesture and works well in reality.
More to follow next week.
Visit http://www.karlsharro.co.uk/ for more articles on architecture.