Sou Fujimoto was considered "a risk" for the 2013 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

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Movie: in the penultimate instalment of our exclusive video series, Julia Peyton-Jones explains why it was a gamble to commission the relatively young Sou Fujimoto to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2013.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto
Photograph by Jim Stephenson

Born in 1971, Sou Fujimoto was the youngest architect to be commissioned to design a Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, until Bjarke Ingels was appointed this year.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto
Photograph by Iwan Baan

Gallery director Peyton-Jones explains in the movie that the Serpentine Gallery tends to appoint older architects because they are better known outside of the architectural profession.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto
Photograph by Jim Stephenson

"The financial plan is predicated on the pavilion being sold," she says. "So to work with a younger architect – who maybe doesn't have that easy acclaim outside the profession – was a risk to us."

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto
Photograph by Iwan Baan

If appointing Fujimoto in 2013 was a gamble, it certainly paid off.



"According to The Art Newspaper, it was the most visited free exhibition of design anywhere in the world in that year," Peyton-Jones says. "That's a great thing to be able to say."

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto
Photograph by Jim Stephenson

Fujimoto created a cloud-like structure made from grids of white steel poles. Variations in the density of the lattice created a transparent structure, which revealed more or less of the gallery and the surrounding park depending on where visitors stood.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto
Photograph by Dezeen

"He did something that gave a completely different perspective on the park," Peyton-Jones says. "It was transparent and light and there was a wonderful relationship with the building because you could look through it."

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto
Photograph by Jim Stephenson

Visitors could walk through the pavilion at ground level, or ascend steps to get a better view of the park.

A series of overlapping translucent plastic discs protected visitors from the rain, while maintaining the pavilion's overall light and airy appearance.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 by Sou Fujimoto
Photograph by Jim Stephenson

"It was technically very simple," Peyton-Jones says.


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"It was a cloud that we created here in Kensington Gardens for that summer."

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

This movie was filmed by Dezeen at the Serpentine Gallery in London. All images used in 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:

  • Guest

    The best Serpentine Gallery Pavilion of all time!

    • Doubtful Dodger

      Agreed. This was the most successful of all the pavilions. It had visual impact.

  • agagnu

    Fujimoto’s pavilion has reached a peak that BIG seems unable to surpass. The amorphous form relates so well with the treed setting, the light floating sensation, the playframe youthful sensation and the merging of the outside and inside.

    BIG’s architectonics seems to be a future project on his drawing board.