Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by
Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei


Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog and de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

The Serpentine Gallery in London has unveiled plans by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei for this summer's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion: they'll conduct an archaeological dig to find traces of past pavilions on the site then line the resulting trenches with cork.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog and de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

The plan involves excavating down to groundwater level, revealing buried traces of the past eleven annual pavilions and creating a well at the bottom that will also collect rainwater.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog and de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

A pool of water will also cover the surface of the circular roof, supported just 1.4 metres above the ground by twelve columns that represent pavilions past and present. It will be possible to drain this water down into the well to create an elevated viewing platform or dance floor.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog and de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

The temporary pavilion will open to the public on 1 June and will remain in Kensington Gardens until 14 October.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 by Herzog and de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

The twelfth annual pavilion follows previous structures by architects including Peter ZumthorJean NouvelSANAA and Frank Gehry. You can see images of them all here, watch our interview with Peter Zumthor at the opening of last year’s pavilion on Dezeen Screen and read even more about the pavilions in our Dezeen Book of Ideas.

See also: more stories about Herzog & de Meuron and more stories about Ai Weiwei.

Here's some more information from the Serpentine Gallery:

Serpentine Gallery reveals plans for Pavilion designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei

The Serpentine Gallery today released plans for the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. It will be the twelfth commission in the Gallery’s annual series, the world’s first and most ambitious architectural programme of its kind.

The design team responsible for the celebrated Beijing National Stadium, which was built for the 2008 Olympic Games, comes together again in London in 2012 for the Serpentine’s acclaimed annual commission, being presented as part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. The Pavilion is Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei’s first collaborative built structure in the UK.

This year’s Pavilion will take visitors beneath the Serpentine’s lawn to explore the hidden history of its previous Pavilions. Eleven columns characterising each past Pavilion and a twelfth column representing the current structure will support a floating platform roof 1.4 metres above ground. The Pavilion’s interior will be clad in cork, a sustainable building material chosen for its unique qualities and to echo the excavated earth. Taking an archaeological approach, the architects have created a design that will inspire visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time across the ghosts of the earlier structures.

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Gallery, said: “It is a great honour to be working with Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, the design team behind Beijing’s superb Bird’s Nest Stadium. In this exciting year for London we are proud to be creating a connection between the Beijing 2008 and the London 2012 Games. We are enormously grateful for the help of everyone involved, especially Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal, whose incredible support has made this project possible.”

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion will operate as a public space and as a venue for Park Nights, the Gallery’s high-profile programme of public talks and events. Connecting to the archaeological focus of the Pavilion design, Park Nights will culminate in October with the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon, the latest edition of the annual Serpentine Marathon series conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist, now in its seventh year. The Marathon series began in 2006 with the 24-hour Serpentine Gallery Interview Marathon; followed by the Experiment Marathon in 2007; the Manifesto Marathon in 2008; the Poetry Marathon in 2009, the Map Marathon in 2010 and the Garden Marathon in 2011.

The 2012 Pavilion has been purchased by Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal and will enter their private collection after it closes to the public in October 2012.

  • rejaps

    Decon meets Chiswick.

  • Colonel Pancake

    Dear Herzog, De Meuron, and Ai Wei Wei,

    Thank you for "getting it."


    Colonel Pancake

  • wa_sulaiman

    clever… as always

  • H-J

    Interesting concept, reminds me of Eisenman's design approach but then with real buildings and projects instead of hypothetical projections.

  • Shavool

    Erm, cool. But what's it made of?

    • Evan

      It's made of cork.

    • opsishimou

      cork nd foam :P

  • Dom

    This idea of recovering the palimpests of past pavilions is quite ingenious. I really hope to see it executed well.

  • thinkcreatebe

    Very interesting concept. Definitely Ai Weiwei brought a deeper meaning to Herzog & de Meuron architectural approach – good partnership!

  • b_h

    I don't 'get it'
    Why is an archeology theme appropriate? The elevated pool sounds good, but surely you won't see it unless you are up there? And if they drain it as mentioned, it will need all the guard rails and gubbins to mess up the image…
    Am I missing something? I am a big fan of AiWeiWei, but pretending to dig up the previous pavilions seems completely irrelevant. no?

    • dwf

      you must be shorter than 1.4m tall, poor guy

  • hope to come and see it

  • Tiiii

    since 2004's MVRDV was not built, which 11 columns?

  • Tiiii

    Regarding to its past, would like to see an indicative 'column' for 2004 MVRDV

  • noyz

    Looks good, I look forward the result!!!. The archaeological and traces stuff looks like early Eisenman, it reminds me also of OMA competition entry for Ponte Parodi competition in Genoa. Perhaps too dark (??) the underneath space of the flying saucer.

  • johnjohn

    affected, pretentious, unbeautiful

  • Bart

    You end up with this of you have no inspiration. Nothing new.

  • Colonel Pancake


    I think they "get it" by understanding that architecture is rooted in cultural context, which is the anti-thesis of the insular-conceived projects for the Serpentine Pavilion that have preceded their effort. I think their focus is a generalized support for architects (such as Wang Shu, of recent notoriety) that are beginning to re-approach the notion of tabula rasa in modernism, with a profound dedication to using architecture that can REINFORCE cultural traditions rather than merely juxtapose through contrast in a way that extends the tradition of the International Style to an increasingly fragmented urbanism that is bare of site-specificity.

    • johnjohn

      oh my god, i don't care. just make something beautiful and useful. please don't build a structure to some BIG IDEA that no one (a.) is even aware of besides architecture theory wonks, (b.) wouldn't care about if they were aware of it.

  • WOW, a simple mapping exercise that generated an elegante solution, we all get caught up with briefs and constraints that we forget the simple things.


  • the zumthor pavilion was truly archaeological, this one seems to be artificially archaeological…we'll see

  • goose 42

    I though the serpentine pavillion was reserved for architects who hadn't built in the UK?

  • b-h

    Colonel Pancake.

    Thanks for your explanation. I still don’t ‘get it.’

    The annual Serpentine Pavilion commission is a great thing, but this concept backfires in a big way. The design could work, but the explanation reeks of self-reference and self-importance: “…to explore the hidden history of its previous Pavilions. Eleven columns characterising each past Pavilion and a twelfth column representing the current structure…” A press-release destined for pseuds corner, surely.