Serpentine Pavilion 2021 ★★★★ Serpentine Galleries | Jun 11 - Oct 17, 2021 - FREE


Sumayya Vally, the 31-year-old director of Counterspace which designed this year's Serpentine Pavilion, declares it to be an homage to the many lost public resting places across the city. We are told that reference is made to various locations and communities throughout London, but what we see rather resembles the re-creation of an architectural salvage yard with fragments of doorframes and portions of fluted pillars. Using reclaimed steel, cork and timber covered with micro cement, these apparently randomly placed elements, together with blocks of various shapes and sizes, seem to conjure up a stage set for a production of The Oresteia or Oedipus. The fact that this pavilion will, like a stage set, be moved elsewhere at the end of the season encourages us to ponder the transience of the seemingly permanent. This huge arrangement in grey and black has a pleasantly cool appearance helped by its great height. Seen in this week's bright sunlight, the strongly contrasting tones of the pillars make striking use of light and shade. There are plenty of intimate nooks for conversation and a large central void. The promised soundscape unfortunately wasn't available; it would certainly have created a different ambience. Brutalist in form and with a preponderance of straight lines, the structure seems to hark back to works by Owen Luder or Denys Lasdun in the 1960s and 70s. Viewed in this context, Vally and Counterspace have given us a pavilion for 2021 that is both challenging and aesthetically pleasing.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, Exterior View © Counterspace Photo: Iwan Baan

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