Frank Gehry's wooden Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2008 was "hugely hefty"

| 8 comments

Movie: Frank Gehry's chunky wooden pavilion from 2008 is the subject of our next exclusive video with Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by John Offenbach

Frank Gehry's 2008 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion consisted of four wood-clad steel columns, which supported a series of large timber planks and beams.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by John Offenbach

"Frank Gehry's pavilion was wonderful," says Peyton-Jones in the movie. "It was made from really hefty bits of wood – hugely hefty bits of wood."

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by John Offenbach

Part-amphitheatre, part-promenade, the pavilion featured terraced seating along two sides of a central avenue that led up to the front of the Serpentine Gallery.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by Nick Rochowski

"The project was very grand and very much about the relationship with the Serpentine Gallery," Peyton-Jones says. "The central avenue framed the gallery."

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by Deborah Bullen

Sheets of transparent glass were suspended from the wooden beams to shelter the promenade, which was used for talks and performances.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by Deborah Bullen

"Gehry was committed to the performative element of how the pavilion was used," Peyton-Jones says. "The inaugural concert was by Thomas Adès, the great British composer."

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by John Offenbach

In one of the previous movies in our series, Peyton-Jones admits that she wasn't completely happy with the finishes on the 2002 pavilion by Toyo Ito. But by 2008, she says the quality of the construction of the pavilions had markedly improved.



"Frank made a surprise visit," she recollects. "He walked around it and had no comment to make about the finishes and how we'd built it and that was really important. It was definitely a progression from the early days."

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by Nick Rochowski

Despite being one of the world's most celebrated architects, Gehry has never completed a building in London. Peyton-Jones says that being able to show the work of great architects in the city – albeit temporarily – is a key strength of the pavilion programme.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008 by Frank Gehry
Photograph by Nick Rochowski

"This is Frank Gehry, one of the most recognised names in the architecture profession," she says.


Subscribe to Dezeen's YouTube channel for the latest architecture and design movies


"It's quite extraordinary that to this day he has not completed a project in London. I think it underscores that the commission has a role to play in terms of informing and educating the public."

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:

  • Oyster

    I’m surprised I actually like it.

  • Pey n

    Can’t wait for SANAA’s one.

  • spadestick

    Artist yes, architect, questionable. Maybe some of his more resolved stuff.

    • Beautyon

      Did you go there and sit in it? Just curious.

  • Z-dog

    Gehry gets a lot of hate from architects and this project is like a middle-finger back at them. I visited this project and it was sublime and original.

    Fantastic detailing and fritting pattern made humble panes of glass read as super-massive objects suspended above mortals heads. Gehry isn’t one man of course, but a large office of clever individuals and this project shows what they can achieve.

    Compare this against Zumthor’s ‘experiential’ Serpentine and Gehry is definitely the winner. Jean Nouvel had an amazing Serpentine as well – another architect despised by the profession.

    • Lior

      Very well said.

  • agagnu

    For a folly perhaps but the suspension of wall panels as canopies is so childish, not childlike. Has Frank Gehry heard of bamboo? As for the stumpy columns, the lost opportunity was not to have used actual tree trunks, or better still bamboo bundles.

  • Lior

    I have been in every Serpentine Gallery since 2001. Gary’s design was the first design that brought people together so well.

    This was one of the few that was designed firstly for the visitors and not for the architect’s ego, and I think it was the most successful so far. However, people love judging by their own personal aesthetic taste rather the architectural object as a whole.