Serpentine Pavilion 2018 by Frida Escobedo at Serpentine Gallery
Mexican architect Frida Escobedo is only the second solo woman and the youngest person to be selected for the prestigious job of designing the annual Serpentine Pavilion. However, her 2018 design pays little reference to these identifying factors, opting instead for a gender-neutral, mature space that is elegant and understated.
The pavilion is made up of a series of perforated walls, which from a distance recall the woven wooden frame for a wattle-and-daub hut or for a celosia, a traditional breeze wall commonly found in Mexican architecture. On closer inspection, however, the walls are revealed to be a lattice of British-made roof tiles, upending the viewer’s understanding of how building materials are typically deployed.
The interior of the space is partially covered by a curving and initially disconcerting ceiling covered in mirrored panels and reflecting the various surfaces and textures of Escobedo’s design. Here, again we find a sense of displacement: roof tiles are used in the walls, while the tables and chairs found inside are doubled on the ceiling.
Confusing typical notions of indoors and outdoors, the internal courtyard also contains a shallow pool that reflects the sky and the surrounding trees, the image on the water’s surface changing with the light, weather and time of day. Occasionally, the reflection is broken up by a visitor walking through it, either accidentally or deliberately, barefoot or in shoes. This temporality is emphasised by the fact that the pavilion’s pivotal axis refers to the Greenwich Prime Meridian, which was used to establish internationally standardised time zones.
One of the strengths of the design is the way in which a visitor’s experience of it could be different with each visit. On a sunny Saturday, the space is likely to be filled with children splashing in the pool and parents drinking coffee under the selfie-inviting mirrored ceiling, whereas early on an overcast morning it would be a soothing location for meditation. In particular, it would be both an exciting and contemplative place to sit and watch a rainstorm.
Escobedo has created a beautiful and engaging architectural experience, which acts as an unobtrusive backdrop to life as well as being a prompt for key questions about how we experience buildings, from their materials to their location.
Photos: Huw Jenkins
Serpentine Pavilion 2018 by Frida Escobedo at Serpentine Gallery is at from 15th June until 7th October 2018. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.