First Look at the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion

This year's design is by the Pavilion's youngest ever participant.

Summer in London is synonymous with a calendar of highly anticipated events – from The Chelsea Flower Show to Ascot – and the annual unveiling of the Serpentine’s Pavilion is no exception.

Every year, the Serpentine Pavilion pops up in London’s Kensington Gardens at the Serpentine Galleries, with new, contemporary architects commissioned to create their first-built project in the UK.

Zaha Hadid designed the inaugural pavilion in 2000, and since then many artists and designers have followed suit, each bringing with them innovative architectural ideas.

This year’s Pavilion is by emerging Mexican architect Frida Escobedo. At 38, she is the youngest ever participant and the first female designer since Zaha Hadid began the tradition in 2000.

Her design is a mash-up of typical Mexican architecture and British materials with a nod to history, specifically the Prime Meridian line at London’s Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

The pavilion takes the form of a courtyard enclosed by dark latticed walls, intended as a play on the celosia – a traditional Mexican breezewall that allows air to flow through buildings.

The prefabricated modules that form the walls are made from British industrial concrete roof tiles arranged in an intricate stacked pattern allowing you to see out, while not be seen within.

The space inside is calming and cool, and though it feels secluded it stays connected to the outside through the walls’ perforation that allow glimpses out and the sun and breeze coming in.

Sunlight streams in though the brickwork, casting shadows that move across the interior with the passing of the day. The pivoting volumes twist and turn, creating a sort of labyrinth, while a stainless-steel ceiling with mirrored underside reflects. At one end there’s a café, while a shallow pool of water runs on one long side, adding to the overall serene atmosphere.

But aside from just being a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of nearby Kensington, the pavilion has meaning and significance too.

The pavilion’s pivoted axis aligns with the Prime Meridian line that was established in Greenwich, London in 1851 and later became the global standard for marking time and geographical distance.

So, while the exterior walls follow the perimeter of the gallery, the inner courtyard (another Mexican design) aligns with the Greenwich meridian, 10 miles to the east.

This way, even if the structure is moved, you’ll always know where north is.

In this way, the pavilion acts as a sort of compass, while also cleverly linking together Britain and Mexico.

The 18th Serpentine Pavilion is open from 15 June to 7 October.

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