Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by SANAA
photographed by Iwan Baan


Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by SANAA

Dutch architectural photographer Iwan Baan has sent us his photographs of this year's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Japanese architects SANAA, which opened to the public in London's Kensington Gardens yesterday. Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.


The pavilion will remain in place until 18 October.


More details in our previous story.


See also:

Serpentine Galley Pavilions over the years
Dezeen's top ten: pavilions


Here's a press release from the Serpentine Gallery:


Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009 designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA

12 July – 18 October 2009

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009 is designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of leading Japanese architecture practice SANAA. The Pavilion, which is sponsored by NetJets Europe, opens on 12 July on the Serpentine Gallery’s lawn where it will remain until 18 October.

Describing their structure the architects said: ‘The Pavilion is floating aluminium, drifting freely between the trees like smoke. The reflective canopy undulates across the site, expanding the park and sky. Its appearance changes according to the weather, allowing it to melt into the surroundings. It works as a field of activity with no walls, allowing uninterrupted view across the park and encouraging access from all sides. It is a sheltered extension of the park where people can read, relax and enjoy lovely summer days.’


Sejima and Nishizawa have created a stunning Pavilion that resembles a reflective cloud or a floating pool of water, sitting atop a series of delicate columns. The metal roof structure varies in height, wrapping itself around the trees in the park, reaching up towards the sky and sweeping down almost to the ground in various places. Open and ephemeral in structure, its reflective materials make it sit seamlessly within the natural environment, reflecting both the park and sky around it.


The Pavilion will be the architects’ first built structure in the UK and the ninth commission in the Gallery’s annual series of Pavilions, the world’s first and most ambitious architectural programme of its kind that annually gives preeminent architects their debut in this country and brings the best of contemporary architecture to London for everyone to enjoy.


There is no budget for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion commission. It is paid for by sponsorship, sponsorship help-in-kind, and the sale of the finished structure through Knight Frank, which does not cover more than 40% of its cost. The Serpentine Gallery collaborates with a range of companies and individuals whose support makes it possible to realise the Pavilion.


Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Gallery, said: ‘Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa’s design embraces the parkland around the Serpentine Gallery as never before with an extraordinarily innovative design, which reveals the subtle play on light and perception so characteristic of their work. This Pavilion will be a wonderful addition to London’s landscape this summer. It is our dream come true.’ Separate areas within the Pavilion contain spaces for a café and an auditorium, where the Park Night events programme will be presented, including performances, talks, film screenings and the Serpentine Gallery Poetry Marathon.


Sejima and Nishizawa’s pioneering buildings have created an architecture that marries aesthetic simplicity with technical complexity, defining a new architectural language which plays with light and perception. Sought after by high-profile clients the world over, from the Louvre Museum in Lens, France, to the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, USA, SANAA’s projects are open stages which make visible the connection between the built structure, the users and the natural environment. Sejima, who in her early days studied at the Japan Women's University and worked with architect Toyo Ito, designer of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2002, began collaborating with Nishizawa in 1995. The architects are working with the structural design and engineering firm SAPS, led by Mutsuro Sasaki, and with the Arup team, led by David Glover and Ed Clark with Cecil Balmond, to realise this project.


NetJets Europe is the title sponsor for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009. Mark Booth, Executive Chairman, said: ‘Sejima and Nishizawa’s design for the Serpentine Pavilion 2009 is truly breathtaking. The incredible light and openness of the concept will make for a stunning structure which will raise the bar even higher for the much-anticipated Pavilion. Design is an area that we’re passionate about at NetJets: we’re firmly focussed on how we can bring world-class design to our customers’ flight experience; just as the Serpentine Pavilion brings world class architecture to London. We’re delighted to be a partner in this project and are looking forward to seeing the finished Pavilion.’

Arup Partner Ed Clark commented: ‘Arup's eighth year of commitment to the Serpentine Pavilion reflects our belief in the project and the positive experience our teams get from collaborating with some of the most exciting architects of our time. This year's Pavilion does not disappoint and reflects the exciting dynamism that SANAA bring to all of their projects.’

Peter Rogers, Director of Stanhope plc, will donate his expertise to all aspects of the Pavilion. He said: ‘The Serpentine Pavilion is a unique project whose innovative and challenging designs transcend normal building projects as well as fusing art and architecture in an exciting built form.’

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion Commission

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion commission was conceived by Serpentine Gallery Director, Julia Peyton-Jones, in 2000. It is an ongoing programme of temporary structures by internationally acclaimed architects and designers. It is unique worldwide and presents the work of an international architect or design team who, at the time of the Serpentine Gallery's invitation, has not completed a building in England. The Pavilion architects to date are: Frank Gehry, 2008; Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen, 2007; Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond, with Arup, 2006; Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Cecil Balmond, Arup, 2005; MVRDV with Arup, 2004 (unrealised); Oscar Niemeyer, 2003; Toyo Ito with Arup, 2002; Daniel Libeskind with Arup, 2001; and Zaha Hadid, 2000. Each Pavilion is sited on the Gallery’s lawn for three months and the immediacy of the process – a maximum of six months from invitation to completion – provides a peerless model for commissioning architecture.

Park Nights, the Gallery’s acclaimed programme of public talks and events, will take place in Sejima and Nishizawa’s Pavilion, and will culminate with the Serpentine Gallery Poetry Marathon in October, the latest in the series of the Gallery’s annual Marathon events. In 2006 the Park Nights programme included the now legendary 24-hour Serpentine Gallery Interview Marathon, convened by Hans Ulrich Obrist and architect Rem Koolhaas, which was followed, in 2007, by the Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon presented by artist Olafur Eliasson and Obrist, which featured experiments performed by leading artists and scientists. In 2008, Obrist led over 60 participants in the Serpentine Gallery Manifesto Marathon.


SANAA, the collaborative office of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, was established in 1995. The firm, based in Tokyo, Japan, operates internationally with an aim toward a broad range of architectural projects, landscaping, planning, interiors, exhibitions, furniture and product design.

SANAA’s buildings allow for unrestrained movement between spaces that are often free of structure, and that have no hierarchy of purpose. While their practice may appear to have a relationship to essentialist minimalism, their buildings are not a construction of ideal forms, but instead reveal a desire to make the components and spaces explicit. Their built structures often appear nearly virtual, aspiring to the immaterial; viewers are invited to explore their relationship with their surroundings through transparent or natural boundaries. There is often accessibility from many sides, resisting the location of a primary façade or entrance, and the buildings appear weightless and open, embodying the characteristics of lightness and transparency.

Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa

Kazuyo Sejima (b. 1956, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan) studied architecture at the Japan Women’s University before joining the practice of architect Toyo Ito. She launched her own practice in 1987 and was named the Japan Institute of Architects’ Young Architect of the Year in Japan in 1992. In 1995, Sejima, with Ryue Nishizawa (b.1966, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan), founded the Tokyo-based firm SANAA (Sejima + Nishizawa and Associates). Nishizawa studied architecture at Yokohama National University and, in addition to his work with Sejima, has also maintained an independent practice since 1997. He holds professorships at prestigious institutions such as Yokohama National University and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

Sejima and Nishizawa were jointly awarded the Golden Lion at the 9th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2004. Sejima is a Visiting Professor at Tama Art University and Keio University in Tokyo and, with Ryue Nishizawa, holds the Jean Labatut Professorship at the School of Architecture at Princeton University, New Jersey, USA. SANAA’s numerous celebrated buildings include a satellite of the Louvre Museum in Lens, France; Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion in Toledo, Ohio, USA; the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, USA; and the extension of the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern in Valencia, Spain. In Japan, SANAA's work includes the N-Museum in Wakayama; the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa; and the Onishi Civic Center in Onishi.

Sponsors and Supporters

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is, both artistically and financially, a hugely ambitious undertaking. The construction and realisation of the Pavilion relies entirely on the support of a significant group of companies and individuals:

Title Sponsor:

  • NetJets Europe


  • Arup
  • Stanhope plc

Platinum Sponsors:

  • Mace Group

Gold Sponsors:

  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Silver Sponsors:

  • Asysco
  • Knight Frank LLP
  • Perspex Distribution
  • Stage One
  • Vitra

Bronze Sponsors:

  • Davis Langdon
  • DP9
  • Elliott Thomas
  • Ethos Recycling
  • Le Petit Jardin
  • Floorscreed Ltd
  • Flos
  • Graphic Image Solutions Ltd
  • GTL Partnership Ltd
  • Hasmead’s
  • J Coffey Construction Ltd
  • John Doyle Group
  • Lend Lease Projects
  • Nextmaruni
  • Phoenix Electrical Company Limited
  • Ronacrete
  • SES
  • Swift Horsman
  • WE-EF

Serpentine Gallery is supported by Arts Council England, City of Westminster, The Royal Parks.

Posted on Monday July 13th 2009 at 1:04 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • bullets

    enough with this Pavillion. totally underwhelming.

  • carlos

    Really Superb. Must see it !!!!!!

  • gab xiao

    there’ll never be enough about this pavilion. it’s the most refreshing pavilion in years. try and refine your taste, Bullet, no dissing…

  • tanya telford – T

    weird, these don’t actually look like photos (maybe its my computer) – still looks great though.

  • Fatigued

    Looks much better in photographs than it did in the renders. The lightness of the structure along with the reflectivity make for a very intriguing composition. I’d love to see it in person.

  • I really like the late evening/night image, but there has been enough coverage of this thing here on Dezeen… it feels like the same thing over and over. To get any more of a feel for it I need to go see it, not see the same/similar images of it over and over.

  • upa

    I have to say, that this pavilion is not as other stuff in architecture. Because it looks better with people.

  • Year of The Monkey

    methinks this is better than it looks in the pictures.

  • sc uh yl er

    Very elegant. Frankly I’m just grateful for any pavilion that’s not some parametric-generated material study/sculpture.

  • Af

    Iwan bann, really makes it look it back again, and again.. and again. Capture sensibility + good architecture = Master Piece.. on the images at least. Let me see it on site… and ill post it once again.

  • yaulee


  • Indi

    The pics with Kensigton Palace in the background are nice. It actually exploring the material’s presence much more than the renders showed. I assume it also makes that lovely sound of rain on a tin roof.

  • Was lucky enough to get to spend an hour walking around the pavilion this weekend, looks even more incredible in the flesh.

  • lmnop

    its absolutely beautiful!

  • moor

    must be missing something. its only a pavillion. whats the big fuss?

  • ‘less is more’ here ….its in harmony with surrounding green….
    a very silent approach to serp. pavilion design unlike it’s previous examples…

    will visit it next week n then can add more!! cheers to SaNaa so far

  • the ground,i think it’s a problem

  • MAD*arx

    I think it’s the best architectonical response for this program in this economy-conscious times…

  • Jelle

    I think this design can open a discussion what a pavillion is about. The space works perfectly on a lovely summer day, but is it also a shelter for rain and wind, which is so characteristic to the British weather?
    Maybe the architects didn’t focus on this aspect but more on the visual effect such a simple structure can provoke within different climate conditions.

  • Christine

    I think it distracts from the natural environment, although its shape seems fluid and organic and there are some lovely reflections in it, I think a more translucent material would be more suitable in this environment.