By MIKA ROSS-SOUTHALL
It's been compared to a doughnut, a spaceship, an egg shell, a Neolithic burial site, a futuristic cave – even one of those papier-mâché balloon-shaped heads you made at school. The Serpentine Gallery’s fourteenth Summer Pavilion opened on Friday with a talk from the Chilean architect, Smiljan Radić, followed by a lecture from Justin McGuirk, whose book, Radical Cities: Across Latin America in search of a new architecture, was published earlier this month. (The event – which is the first of the Serpentine’s Park Nights – coincides with the London Festival of Architecture.)
Last year’s pavilion – an exquisite white steel, grid-based structure, like a crosshatched drawing – was designed by the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. Radić’s offering is very different. Layers of off-white fibreglass create a translucent pod structure (the walls are only twelve millimetres thick but measure eighteen metres in diameter). It rests on huge rocks and centres around a trunk-like column; solid on one side, it is exposed to reveal a ground level “atrium” in the rocks below, on the other. The dappled light inside the pavilion and angled cut-out openings framing Kensington Gardens make it feel like you’re under the canopy of a tree. A snaking track of white LED lights hangs from the ceiling. At night, the structure glows. But is it strange that an outdoor pavilion relies on artificial lighting during the day?