Four years ago, Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron made waves with their Bird’s Nest National Stadium for the Beijing Olympics. Now they will be turning heads again, this time by designing the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, which will be on display during the London Olympics. This will be their first project together in the UK and one of Ai Weiwei’s first major works after his incarceration in China last year. The trio’s intriguing design for the Serpentine Gallery will actually dig into the ground to uncover traces of each of the eleven previous pavilions, much like an archeological dig.

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Image ©T&C Film AG

This year marks the 12th annual commission of the Serpentine Pavilion and Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron will explore the roots of the previous eleven pavilions built on the site. Their plan is to dig 5 feet down into the site until they reach the groundwater where they will dig a water hole to provide an immediate connection with the underground water resource. The partially underground pavilion will also provide the architects and visitors a chance to explore the remains of the previous 11 pavilions, much like an archeological dig. As the team describes it, “a distinctive landscape emerges out of the reconstructed foundations which is unlike anything we could have invented; its form and shape is actually a serendipitous gift.”

Then they will build 11 columns to represent the previous columns and a 12th main column, which will all be used to support a roof suspended just feet above the ground. The roof will be used to collect rainwater and can be seen as a shimmering mirror to reflect the sky. For special occasions the water can be drained directly to the water hole and the roof can be used as a platform, stage or dance floor.

Herzog & de Meuron collaborated with Ai Weiwei on the National Stadium in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. Ai Weiwei is expected to be allowed to begin traveling outside of China some time in May following his arrest and incarceration for supposed tax evasion. You can learn more about Ai Weiwei’s work and events of the last few years in a new documentary, Ai Weiwei Never Sorry, which debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Images ©T&C Film AG & Iwan Baan courtesy of the Serpentine Gallery