Black Chapel is the name of the 21st Serpentine Pavilion which will be designed by the Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, in collaboration with the Adjaye Associates studio for the architectural project. The pavilion is a temporary installation created annually to accommodate the summer programming of the Serpentine Gallery in London. The initiative goes back to 2000, with the first pavilion built by architect Zaha Hadid and, over time, it has become a highly anticipated event that provides an important showcase for emerging talent in the architecture world. In fact, every year, the design of the Serpentine Pavilion is entrusted to a different artist or architect, who get the opportunity to present their first work in the United Kingdom. Looking back at some of the names from past editions, in 2020 – and then 2021 due to the delay imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic – the project was entrusted to architect Sumayya Vally from the Counterspace studio (South Africa), in 2019 to Junya Ishigami (Japan), in 2018 to Frida Escobedo (Mexico), in 2017 to Diébédo Francis Kéré (Burkina Faso) and in 2016 to Bjarke Ingels (Denmark), when the initiative broke all records, becoming the most visited architecture and design exhibition in the world.
One of the fixed points of every edition and every project is the location, which is always the Kensington Gardens area in front of the Serpentine Gallery, together with a number of other requirements such as being a structure that can be dismantled and reused in a different context.
The project presented by Theaster Gates on February 3 draws inspiration from the great kilns of Stoke-on-Trent, the Staffordshire town known as the Potteries for its tradition of ceramics and its art and crafts museums. An evocative building with which the American artist wants to pay homage to the manufacturing tradition and craftsmanship of the United Kingdom. The intent is to offer visitors the feeling of being in an environment that induces reflection, as in a small chapel. An operating bell, originating from the demolished St. Laurence Church on Chicago's South Side, will be placed next to the entrance of the Pavilion, used to call, signal and announce the start of performances and events. Inside the chapel, a single source of light from an oculus will help create a sanctuary-like environment for reflection, giving a sense of sacredness to the space.
The pavilion will open to the public on Friday, June 10 and will primarily host live performances in poetry, dance and musical events. As artist Theaster Gates explained, "The name Black Chapel is important because it reflects the invisible parts of my artistic practice". In particular it reflects the importance that sacred music and the sacred arts have had on his career, together with their healing capacity. For the artist it was important to conceive “a space where one could rest from the pressures of the day and spend time in quietude”. A space where you can spend time in tranquility and meditation. As the artist continues, "I have always wanted to build spaces that consider the power of sound and music as a healing mechanism and emotive force that allows people to enter a space of deep reflection and/or deep participation."
The architectural consultancy for the construction of the pavilion will be provided by the Adjaye Associates studio. The project will be carried out with a view to sustainability, minimising the environmental impact and the ecological footprint of the building. The Pavilion will therefore be predominantly made of wood, light and able to be dismantled and relocated, while the materials will all be of certified and sustainable origin. Moreover, as per previous editions, once the Serpentine's summer programme has concluded, the pavilion will be completely dismantled and rebuilt in a new permanent location.
Images courtesy of Serpentine Pavilion and artist
Project Name: Serpentine Pavilion
Location: London, UK
Artist: Theaster Gates
Architects: Adjaye Associates
Renders: ©2022 Theaster Gates Studio (01-02)
Theaster Gates Portrait: ©Sara Pooley (03)