Bjarke Ingels' Serpentine Gallery Pavilion conceived as an "unzipped wall"


Bjarke Ingels' firm BIG has unveiled its design for this year's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, featuring a tall pointed structure made of interlocking fibreglass "bricks".

The Danish architect's design for this year's pavilion was imagined as solid wall that has been "unzipped" to create a three-dimensional space.

It will be made from a series of box-like fibreglass frames stacked on top of each other, in a pattern based on a common brick wall.

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 by Bjarke Ingels

The wall of fibreglass blocks splits to create a curved opening to the pavilion with jagged edges.

"We have attempted to design a structure that embodies multiple aspects that are often perceived as opposites: a structure that is free-form yet rigorous, modular yet sculptural, both transparent and opaque, both solid box and blob," said Ingels.

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 by Bjarke Ingels

"This unzipping of the wall turns the line into a surface, transforming the wall into a space," he added. "At the top, the wall appears like a straight line, while at the bottom, it forms a sheltered valley at the entrance of the pavilion and an undulating hillside towards the park."

The tall white structure will have a void in its centre that will host a cafe and events space during the day, and the gallery's annual Park Nights programme in the evenings.

The Serpentine commissions a different architect to create the pavilion every summer outside the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, offering them the chance to create their first built structure in England.

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 by Bjarke IngelsFor the first time, four summerhouses will accompany the main pavilion, designed by Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi, Berlin studio Barkow Leibinger, Paris-based architect Yona Friedman and British architect Asif Khan.

"As you can see from the architect's renders, Bjarke Ingels has responded to the brief for a multipurpose pavilion with a supremely elegant structure that is both curvaceous wall and soaring spire, that will surely serve as a beacon – drawing visitors across Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to visit the pavilion, the summerhouses and our major exhibitions by Alex Katz and Etel Adnan," said gallery directors Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

BIG is known for forward-thinking concepts and exciting ideas, but has only a handful of completed projects, including the looping Danish National Maritime Museum in Helsingør and two new subterranean facilities for a high school outside Copenhagen.

Serpentine Pavilion 2016 by Bjarke Ingels

In a recent Opinion column for Dezeen, Aaron Betsky explained why he's part of the BIG fan club.

Dezeen has been looking back at each of the Serpentine Gallery's pavilions from 2000 to 2015 in a series of interviews gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones.

Last year's pavilion was a colourful chrysalis of translucent plastic created by Spanish duo SelgasCano. Previous designers have included Peter Zumthor, Jean Nouvel, SANAAHerzog & de Meuron and Sou Fujimoto.

  • jonimitchell

    Looks more interesting than I anticipated.

  • the guest

    WOW! Boxes again.

  • Kevin Joel Ameyo

    Not a bad concept.

  • SteveLeo

    Stacked boxes… the only thing I’m surprised by is the lack of diagrams with arrows and planes being lifted or squeezed in this article.

  • pushkinpassey

    I like the fact that his renders show the realistic London climate of rain and overcast skies unlike Zumthor’s garden of 2011!

    • Galicer

      Maybe because Zumthor doesn’t do renders. Let’s see how beautiful this is under the rain.

      • NP

        That is true, but that pavilion looked like a cemetery with or without rain. I just think that people give Zumthor too much veneration sometimes.

        He has great projects for sure, but I do not think that all his projects are amazing. For me, I think that the best pavilion was the one by Herzog & de Meuron because conceptually it was more interesting.

        • davvid

          Exactly. He fetishises materiality but the spaces end up feeling mournful and not vibrant.

          • ha

            Just check the photograph above to see how vibrant his spaces can be.

        • archshen

          So are many Japanese buildings, if you refer his garden design to a cemetery. This type of building design is hardly understood by most of westerners.

        • the guest

          The best one? Arbitrary Peter Eisenman concept with out-of-scale cork?

          • NP

            That is the problem with people. They only understand architecture from an aesthetic point but not from a conceptual one. You are just talking about aesthetic. In that case, the one of Peter Zumthor is the opposite. Conceptually boring but aesthetically good. So what is the case with architecture if you can only do pretty but it does not have a meaning?

      • pushkinpassey

        I think you missed the Archdaily article on Zumthor’s pavilion back in 2011 with renders. Here it is:

        • spadestick

          Nice renders!

        • Galicer

          That’s because those pictures where taken right on his courtyard. It wasn’t a matter of “let’s make it shiny”, that’s simply how the weather was that day. Now if you want to complain about Swiss weather, that’s something else.

  • bee No.001

    Supremely elegant structure? It is a rather trite ogee motive fashioned out of disposable plastic elements. BIG’s motif of conceptual and material recyclation is perfectly overt there, I think.

  • stephanie

    Called it – stacked boxes! A form that any design student with knowledge in Grasshopper could create in twenty minutes, paired with an aggrandised description to make it sound like they’ve attempted something brand new.

    • Monika

      The wobbly grass patches around it were more entertaining than the pavilion itself.

  • Manky

    Everyone’s very bitchy on here, aren’t they? Oh, and while I’m at it… anybody who’s dreary enough to fall for the rainy London cliché can go eat me. I’ve lived in London for 15 years and only one summer has been particularly rainy. So there.

    • Tony Marshallsay

      But when it rains, there’s usually wind with it, so it will blow in through the open boxes and soak everything inside. Good idea? I don’t think so.

  • Guest

    Yet more stacked boxes by BIG.

  • Watchmen

    Remembering the 2015 fiasco. At least the SelgasCano proposal was original…

    • bee No.001

      I missed last year’s pavilion. Can you elaborate upon that fiasco? I thank you.

  • ciao

    Beginning of their end.

  • HeywoodFloyd

    I’d rather see a pavilion of actual stacked boxes than a full on building based on a central motif of representational stacked boxes.

    I think what we finally have here is the proper context, scale and functionality for BIG’s pseudo-intellectual aesthetic.

  • Eduardo Ugalde

    What about the scale?

  • lego

    This is just sad. How much does the Lego company pay you Mr Ingels?

  • Joe_3

    I wrote this off as soon as Bjarke was announced, but I actually quite like it.

  • Architects Anonymous

    $20 it doesn’t get built. I jumped off the BIG hype train and so should you.


    London real estate agents are already working on the pamphlets to market the boxes to the upper middle-class squirrels.

  • karan

    Courtscraper, spiral… blah blah. Now an unzipped wall. Good names.

  • Edie

    This is nothing more but just an arch (with fancy shape) that takes you to the main entrance of the gallery. I don’t see the pavilion here, there is no program. At least the gallery is making the Summer Houses that look a lot more interesting than this.

  • rick


  • Damien

    Again and again a day about BIG! It’s getting really boring and I’m getting very fed up with that. Did he buy stocks at Dezeen?

  • Finally, a BIG project I can appreciate. Most of his work should also be temporary.

  • Meme

    I like it.

  • Gregory Walker

    At least SANAA can rest easy, knowing they’ve still had the best pavilion so far…

  • Matt Landau

    This will be the most cat-endorsed Serpentine pavilion so far.

  • Nuno Bártolo

    Let’s face it, architects have really nothing to say.

  • anonymos

    I think the best part about that design is that its temporary and will soon be gone.

  • ZH

    “BIG create structure from offset stacked boxes shock!”

  • DAffy

    The words ‘pony’, ‘trick’ and ‘one’ spring to mind…

  • Scooza

    Live, die and repeat.

  • Faust

    Media enthral of man with Rhino license, Bartlett phrase book and pleasing face.