Mexican architect Frida Escobedo has unveiled this year’s Serpentine Pavilion—a dark and porous envelope that wraps around an inner courtyard with a shallow pool of water. Located on the lawn of the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens, the temporary summer pavilion is built with walls of concrete roofing tiles stacked together in a staggered formation on steel poles. The open voids in the stacked tile walls give Escobedo’s pavilion a sense of lightness by allowing natural light and views to pass through.
At 38, Escobedo is the youngest architect ever tapped for the design of the annual Serpentine Pavilion. She is also the first solo woman selected for the commission since Zaha Hadid, who designed the first pavilion in 2000. For the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion, now in its 18th iteration, Escobedo took inspiration from domestic Mexican architecture and British materials.
An enclosed courtyard—a common feature in Mexican houses—forms the heart of the pavilion, which comprises two rectangular volumes set on a north axis in a nod to the Prime Meridian, a global standard for time and geographic distance. In contrast, the outer walls of the pavilion are aligned with the Serpentine Gallery’s east facade. Escobedo designed lattice-like walls of British-made cement roof tiles that take inspiration from Mexico’s traditional breeze walls, known as celosia. The mirrored underside of the canopy and the triangular pool on the ground reflect the movement of light and shadow to heighten visitors’ awareness of their surroundings.
“My design for the Serpentine Pavilion 2018 is a meeting of material and historical inspirations inseparable from the city of London itself and an idea which has been central to our practice from the beginning: the express of time in architecture through inventive use of everyday materials and simple forms,” Escobedo said. “For the Pavilion, we have added the materials of light and shadow, reflection and refraction, turning the building into a timepiece that charts the passage of the day.” The Serpentine Pavilion opens June 15 and will run until October 7, 2018.
Photography © 2018 Iwan Baan