Construction starts on 2018 Serpentine Pavilion

Construction of the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, London, has started. For the sixth year running, AECOM, in collaboration with David Glover, are delivering engineering and technical design services for the project. The Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, celebrated for dynamic projects that reactivate urban space, was commissioned to design this year’s Serpentine Pavilion. AECOM has worked closely with the architect, the Serpentine Galleries and contractor, Stage One Creative Services, to develop the concept into a finely detailed construction, ready for the public to enjoy upon its opening in June.

Escobedo’s Pavilion will take the form of an enclosed courtyard, comprised of two rectangular volumes positioned at an angle. While the outer walls will be aligned with the Serpentine Gallery’s eastern facade, the axis of the internal courtyard will align directly to the north. Internal courtyards are a common feature of Mexican domestic architecture, while the Pavilion’s pivoted axis refers to the Prime Meridian, which was established in 1851 at Greenwich and became the global standard marker of time and geographical distance.

British-made materials feature heavily in the Pavilion’s construction, chosen for their dark colours and textured surfaces. A celosia – a traditional breeze wall common to Mexican architecture – will be composed of a lattice of cement roof tiles that diffuse the view out into the park, transforming it into a vibrant blur of greens and blues. Two reflecting elements will emphasise the movement of light and shadow inside the Pavilion over the course of the day.

The curved underside of the canopy will be clad with mirrored panels, and a triangular pool cast into the Pavilion floor will trace its boundary directly beneath the edge of the roof, along the north axis of the Meridian. As the sun moves across the sky, reflected and refracted by these features, visitors may feel a heightened awareness of time spent in play, improvisation and contemplation over the summer months.

Jon Leach, Director, AECOM, said:

“The Serpentine Pavilion is always an inspirational project to work on, and this year’s is no different.  Our engineering and technical team plays an important role in the creative process, working closely with the architect to transform their design into a functional and buildable space without losing sight of their original vision.”

Amy Koerbel, Regional Director, AECOM, added:

“For us as engineers, the key to delivering a successful pavilion is a highly collaborative approach to transform the architect’s vision into reality.  The challenge of designing and constructing the Serpentine Pavilion within the tight programme constraints always results in a spontaneity in the process, which requires mutual trust and very close working relationship from all parties.”

The Serpentine Pavilion is one of the top ten most-visited architectural and design exhibitions in the world. Each year, the Serpentine Galleries commissions an international architect to design a temporary Pavilion for the Gallery grounds.

Last year, AECOM provided engineering and technical advisory services for Diébédo Francis Kéré’s Pavilion, which was a bold, innovative structure that brought the architect’s characteristic sense of light and life to the lawns of Kensington Gardens. In 2016, for the first time, the Serpentine Galleries expanded its annual architecture programme to include four Summer Houses and in 2015, AECOM helped to bring selgascano’s colourful, translucent, chrysalis-like design to life. In 2014 the company helped design and deliver Smiljan Radić’s toroidal shell structure and in 2013 it provided engineering and technical design services for Sou Fujimoto’s cloud-like Pavilion.