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Temporary architectures: the Serpentine Pavilion 2021 is back

The twentieth edition of the Serpentine Pavilion in London is curated by South African firm Counterspace


After skipping a year due to the pandemic, the Serpentine Pavilion is back in London with the 20th edition. The project of the 2021 edition is by Counterspace, the firm based in Johannesburg and led by Sumayya Vally. The Serpentine Pavilion has always been a project with which an international architectural firm makes its debut in Great Britain. As a requirement, the architect of the Serpentine Pavilion must never have carried out any projects in Great Britain before the Pavilion. Sumayya Vally, in addition to making her British debut, is also the youngest architect to have designed a Serpentine Pavilion.

See all the Serpentine Pavilions, from 2000 to today

Discover also Serpentine Pavilion 2019, by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami


For the Serpentine Pavilion 2021, Counterspace drew inspiration from the various communities and meeting places that characterize them, in various locations across London. Through a study that lasted a few months, Counterspace identified the communities in the neighborhoods of Brixton, Hoxton, Tower Hamlets, Edgware Road, Barking and Dagenham and Peckham. This Pavilion pays homage to places, erased or still existing, that allow the community to exist. Among them are some of the earliest mosques built in the city, such as Fazl Mosque and East London Mosque, cooperative bookshops such as Centerprise, in Hackney, entertainment and cultural sites including The Four Aces Club on Dalston Lane, The Mangrove restaurant and the Notting Hill Carnival.

Discover also Serpentine Pavilion 2019, by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami


The Serpentine Pavilion 2021 is built of reclaimed steel, cork and timber covered with micro-cement. The varying textures, hues of pink and brown are drawn directly from the architecture of London and reference changes in quality of light. This structure is designed to be entirely disassembled and reused.

Serpentine Pavilion: a temporary architecture entirely reusable

Historically, the pavilion has always been a means of designing with innovative materials. This year’s project sought to use only materials reclaimed from other constructions. That’s why the primary structure of the pavilion is made entirely of steel reclaimed from other projects; this material was already in storage at the contractor’s site, Stage One. The cork cladding is a byproduct of the wine industry, and the micro-cement is derived from lime and marble production waste. The construction of the Serpentine Pavilion must meet very strict constraints. First, no structure must be permanent. Moreover, at the end of the period, the garden must be restored exactly as it was. That’s why the plumbing and electrical systems are underground. The above-ground portion of construction, on the other hand, should always be removable and reusable. It is not always really reused, but these are the construction requirements.

Discover where the Serpentine Pavilions since 2000 have gone

To underline the collaboration between Serpentine Galleries and partner organizations, for the first time in the history of this commission, four Fragments of the Pavilion are placed in London. In particular, one of the first Black publishers and booksellers in the UK New Beacon Books in Finsbury Park, and a multi-purpose venue and community center The Tabernacle in Notting Hill. But also at the arts center The Albany in Deptford and the new Becontree Forever Arts and Culture Hub at Valence Library in Barking and Dagenham, which was established this year to commemorate the centenary of the UK’s largest council housing estate. [Txt: Roberta Mutti, Ph: Iwan Baan, courtesy Serpentine Galleries]

See all the Serpentine Pavilions, from 2000 to today

Fragment of the Serpentine Pavilion at the community center The Tabernacle in Notting Hill. Ph: George Darrell, courtesy Serpentine Galleries

You can visit the Serpentine Pavilion until October 17, 2021 Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA

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