It was a woman, Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid , who designed the first Serpentine Pavilion, a temporary pavilion on the lawn in front of the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens that hosts the gallery’s summer programme. Other designs and other women have followed, including Kazuyo Sejima (with Ryue Nishizawa - SANAA) in 2009 and Lucia Cano (with Jose Selgas - Selgascano) in 2015. It is nice to see that an initiative that began in 2000 with a woman building her first project in the UK – one of the essential conditions of the pavilion competition – sees another woman set a record in 2018. The youngest architect ever to design the pavilion, in what has become an annual event anxiously awaited by both Londoners and visitors from all over the world, is Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, born in 1979. The plans for the 18th Serpentine Pavilion were recently unveiled by artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist and by Yana Peel, CEO of the Serpentine Galleries, with advising architects David Adjaye and Richard Rogers. The new Serpentine Pavilion will be constructed in time to host the Serpentine Gallery’s summer programme of events running from June 15 through October 7 2018.
Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion returns to a number of traditional Mexican architectural elements, combining them with elements of British history and particularly with the prime meridian, the Greenwich meridian, which runs through London’s Royal Observatory. The architect designed an enclosed courtyard composed of two open volumes with a rectangular base set at an angle to one another. The inner courtyard is a traditional element of Mexican architecture; Frida Escobedo’s courtyard in Kensington Gardens will have its outer walls aligned with the eastern wall of the Serpentine Gallery. The pavilion’s internal axis will run from north to south, recalling the prime meridian in Greenwich, established in 1848 in Great Britain and accepted world-wide following the 1884 Washington Conference.
The architect chose traditional British-made materials such as dark concrete tiles for the walls of the enclosure, recalling the “celosia”, the traditional breeze wall of Mexican architecture, an element typically found in structures that need to provide shelter against strong sunshine. In the Serpentine Pavilion, the structure will create a peekaboo effect in relation to the park around it, maintaining a visual connection with its surroundings. Frida Escobedo has included two elements emphasising the effects created by light and shadow in the pavilion: a roof covered entirely with reflective panels and a triangular pool. The light reflected and refracted in the mirrors and the water will create ever-changing light effects in the pavilion that vary with the time and the weather, heightening visitors’ awareness of the passage of time. The architect described her project as a “timekeeper”. The light, water and geometry of the project are indissolubly linked with the city of London, creating a bond between simple materials typically used in the local area used in an innovative way and a historic element connected with the city.
Mexican architect Frida Escobedo was born in Mexico City in 1979 and founded her own architectural practice in 2006 after working as co-director of Perro Rojo’s studio. Shortlisted for the Designs of the Year at the London Design Museum in 2014 and the Arc Vision Prize for Women in 2013, she won the Bienal Iberoamericana de Arquitectura y Urbanismo (IX BIAU) in 2014 and the Young Architects Forum in 2009, to mention only a few of the many prizes and acknowledgements she has received. Her urban renewal projects revitalising forgotten places with targeted architectural projects are particularly well-known and appreciated.
Design: Frida Escobedo, Taller de Arquitectura
Location: Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London UK
Rendering © Frida Escobedo, Taller de Arquitectura, Renderings by Atmósfera
Architectural photographs: Rafael Gamo, Frida Escobedo, Catarina Botello
Architect’s photograph: Cuauhtemoc García