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Serpentine Pavilion 20 year anniversary

The inaugural Serpentine Pavilion opened 20 years ago this month.

In 2000, the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens commissioned a specially designed pavilion for its 30th anniversary gala. The brief was to devise an external enclosure for 400 seated guests on the lawn outside the gallery and, responding to the temporary nature of the installation, the studio started with the idea of a tent or marquee.

Although designed for the anniversary gala, the structure proved so popular it remained in place throughout the summer to host the gallery’s talks, workshops and outdoor café – becoming the first of the Serpentine’s popular programme of summer pavilions.

The triangulated canopy disrupted the conventional idea of a tensile fabric construction; its sequence of angular, flat planes gave the illusion of solidity. The fabric panels were supported by a steel frame, which extended to the ground and reached high into the air to define a variety of internal spaces. Lighting was discreetly integrated between the fabric cladding to illuminate and expose its structural ribs.

Photograph by Hélène Binet