Serpentine Goes Underground for Annual Architecture Spectacle

An annual highlight of the avant-garde architecture scene, each summer since 2000, the Serpentine Gallery in London commissions "a temporary pavilion from an architect who has not built in England before." Michael Webb looks at this year's version.

Coinciding with London's hosting of the Olympic Games, Serpentine curators selected Herzog & De Meuron and Ai Weiwei, designers of the centerpiece stadium for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, to design this years iteration.

Envisioned as a "half sunken shelter, half archeological dig," the saucer-shaped pavilion incorporates traces from the prior eleven pavilions that occupied the site at the same time that it takes "a different approach from the signature statements favored by earlier architects."

"The current project is less dramatic than many of its predecessors," writes Webb, "but it offers a deeply satisfying, haptic experience, recalling childhood games beneath the dining table. Its apparent simplicity conceals the complexity of the preparatory plans, in which the footprints of earlier pavilions and their foundations were overlaid."

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