Rem Koolhaas' 2006 Serpentine Gallery pavilion was inflated like a balloon

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Movie: in our next exclusive movie with Julia Peyton-Jones, the Serpentine Gallery director discusses the bulbous inflatable canopy that adorned Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond's 2006 pavilion.

2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond

The 2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA with Cecil Balmond and engineering firm Arup, featured a giant helium-filled canopy.

"I had this image in my mind that the bubble might sort of float away off into the ether," Peyton-Jones says in the movie. "But of course it never did."

2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond

The balloon-like form was lowered when the weather was bad to avoid it getting damaged by strong winds. But the canopy extended above the roof of the Serpentine Gallery when it was fully inflated on fine days.



"We had a very simple mechanism," Peyton-Jones explains. "We could raise it like a balloon so it would completely transform the profile of the structure."

2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond

The canopy and the solid facade of the structure were made from translucent plastic, allowing natural light to filter into the auditorium housed within the pavilion. Lights inside caused it to glow at night.

2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond

Inside, the auditorium featured a frieze by Thomas Demand to coincide with an exhibition of the photographer's work at the gallery.

"That year was incredibly important because there was an artistic link between the pavilion and the gallery," Peyton-Jones says.

2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond

2006 was also the year that writer and curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist joined the gallery as co-director. Together with Koolhaas, Obrist hosted two 24-hour interview marathons in the pavilion, talking to a wide range of figures including politicians, architects, philosophers, writers, artists, film-makers and economists.

2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond

The success of the events led the Serpentine Gallery to host more marathons at subsequent pavilions.

"Rem and Hans-Ulrich were literally interviewing people throughout the day and the night over a 24-hour period," Peyton-Jones says.


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"That became part of the trajectory going forwards and has been integral to the pavilion programme ever since," she explains.

Julia Peyton-Jones
Julia Peyton-Jones. Copyright: Dezeen

This movie was filmed by Dezeen at the Serpentine Gallery in London. All images used in the movie and this story are courtesy of Serpentine Galleries.

Dezeen is looking back at each of the gallery's pavilions from 2000 to 2015 in a series of interviews. You can watch all the movies as we publish them on our YouTube playlist:

  • spadestick

    Pezo von Ellrichshausen next please! They are so apt for this sort of work.