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The 20th Serpentine Pavilion celebrates diasporic London spaces

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

For more than two decades, the Serpentine Gallery in London has commissioned architects around the world to create a summer pavilion. The first architectural essay for this internationally renowned programme was designed in 2000 by Zaha Hadid.


This year's pavilion is the 21st and its temporary structure is located on the lawns of Kensington Gardens, near the Serpentine Gallery. Everything about it, from the articulated details to scale, presence, airiness, depth, height, and light, and pays homage to treasured gathering spaces throughout the city of London.

Serpentine Pavillion
Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace

Designed by Sumayya Vally-led Johannesburg-based practice Counterspace, it features hints of the modern and neoclassical. Vally (31) is also the youngest ever architect commissioned by the London-based gallery to design the Serpentine Pavilion.


“My whole practice and this Pavilion are centred around amplifying and collaborating with multiple, diverse voices from different histories; with an interest in themes of identity, belonging, community, and gathering. The past year has drawn these themes sharply into focus while giving me the space to reflect on the incredible generosity of the communities that have been integral to this Pavilion." (Sumayya Vally of Counterspace for Serpetine Gallery)


The soft hues of pink contrasted by brown accents highlight the structure's varying textures - the Pavilion is built of reclaimed cork, timber, and steel, and covered with micro-cement -, drawn straight from the architecture of the city and reference changes in the quality of light.


To respond to the historical eradication and successive shortage of cross-communal spaces across London, the pavilion pays tribute to eminent past and present places of gathering and organising within the city’s most significant neighbourhoods to cross-cultural and diasporic communities, such as Peckham, Tower Hamlets, Brixton, Hoxton, Edgware Road, Barking, and Dagenham.


Whether they’re doing film, choreography, or sculptural installations, Counterspace never settle for the respective discipline’s canon. And that’s what they did for the Pavilion - Vally lived in London for four months, searching for inspiration outside architecture.


She explored the city and delved into its history, searching for “lost and vulnerable spaces” - markets, community gardens, bookshops, cinemas, childcare centres, libraries, arts mosques, clubs, mosques, women’s centres, newspaper offices, restaurants, centres, hair salons, restaurants, and theatres. Streets of protests and carnivals in Brixton and Notting Hill were also on her mind map, as well as the Wall of Truth memorial to Grenfell victims under the Westway.


The 2021 structure will be open for visitors to explore and meet up with friends until 17 October, after which it will be purchased by developer and wellbeing resorts operator Therme Group. Fans of immersive hyperreal sound installations will also be delighted to experience Brian Eno's “Back to Earth” site-specific, layered, sound commission. The stratified sonic composition for the Serpentine Pavilion is titled “In A Garden” (2021) and moves through the Pavilion, from “the earth beneath visitors’ feet to the space above their heads.”


The Serpentine Pavilion📍 Serpentine Gallery


📅 Until 17 October 2021

⏲️ 10:00- 18:00

💰 Price: FREE & no booking required. __________________________________

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