Serpentine Summer Pavilions 2012

ColinHumphrey:, culture, exhibition, london, serpentine, architectural, summer pavilions, 2012ColinHumphrey:, culture, exhibition, london, serpentine, architectural, summer pavilions, 2012

1 June – 14 October 2012, Serpentine Gallery London

A potent concoction

Ai Wei Wei (AWW), an adept artist with an acute sense of form, composition and visual rhythm acclaimed for his political activism formerly named the most influential artist by the ‘Art Review’ magazine (2011) coupled with Herzog and De Meurdon (HDM) a Swiss architectural duo renowned for their structural ingenuity as demonstrated by Tate Modern 1 and 2, St Leonards Street and notably their former collaboration with Ai Wei Wei on the Beijing National Stadium 2008.

Immanent and transcendant

Description: A sunken space sparsely populated with seating areas amid pillars upon which rests a large circular shaped shallow basin filled with water. Dimensions approximately 10 M diameter and 2-3 M depth. Both physically and metaphysically the work is of a dyadic composition it combines Apollonian transcendance via water, earth’s most sustaining element which alludes to all that is transient, pure and meta yet still absolute set above the solid constant an immanent Dionysian orgy of ‘concrete’, that man made structure that typifies and affirms our species’ presence in this world, yet ironically it is water that will prove the more durable – “water in motion, gets the better in the end of granite and porphyry”, Lao Tzu.

Collective social experience

Both AWW and HDM are proponents of the asymmetric and informal styles as can be seen in Template (2007) after collapse and Grapes (2008) Ai Wei Wei and St Leonards Street and Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis Herzog and De Meurdon. Above all the work creates an environment and a social space which is functional and pleasing to the eye it evokes a sense of zen and makes a primitive call to primordial society, the cave like conclave where people can sit, chatter, shelter and relax. Structurally the pavilion is reminiscent of Charles Edouard Jeanneret (a.k.a Le Courbusier) for example, one can infer similar divisions of space and the use of load bearing solid pillars and concrete which forms a single mass all of which echo from the past.

Living work

The work has spatio-temporal as well as memorial longevity. It will be rained on, shone on, sat on and experienced physically and for its duration shall be available to the public. Its presence will invoke fondness, reviling or indifference. There is possibly no better time to experience the work than at midday on a clear sunny day, this shows the piece to its best advantage. The play of shadows form a pleasing optical diversion and create a sense of pitch and also the reflection from the water basin is equally interesting.

Should I?

Well yes, the work is certainly evocative and of good quality. Functional and aesthetically appealing it could be good for a school trip, a day out with a partner/friends or a quick way to kill time while you’re out and about and certainly unmissable if your passing by and a storm breaks out. If for no other reason, it is a well considered piece of structured form and logic appreciable to those well acquainted with art and those just starting out. Exacted and created by some truly inspirational individuals.


Medium size scale – outdoor pavilion of public art, subterranean and corporeal situated on the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery free and open to the public.

written by: Colin Humphrey

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