Contact Us: [email protected]

Serpentine Pavilion

Serpentine Pavilion

Structural Award Highly Commended 2005

Location: London
Client/Owner: Serpentine Gallery Trust
Architects: Alvaro Siza, Eduardo Souto de Moura, C. Balmond
Main Contractors: Bovis LendLease
Structural Engineers: ARUP
Wood Species: Spruce

The Serpentine Gallery pavilion for 2005 was a dramatic 400m2 arching grid of laminated spruce elements designed by the famous Portuguese architects Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura in association with Cecil Balmond.

An innovative reciprocal structure was used, in which interlocking elements of two grid-unit lengths were arranged in a mutually supporting pattern. This allowed each element to have simple mortice-and-tenon connections, yet maintain overall grillage bending stiffness. The grillage was clad externally with translucent panels that incorporated autonomous solar-powered lights.

The vaulted grid is reminiscent of the lamella barrel-vaulted roofs of 1920’s Germany, but, while traditional lamellas were built from identical elements, each element of this pavilion has a different length and angle.

Requirements for high strength and dimensional stability led to the use of Kerto-Q, made from laminated veneers of Finnish spruce. Each element is numbered and put together in a specified sequence.

In designing the Pavilion, Siza sought to ‘guarantee that the new building – while presenting a totally different architecture – established a “dialogue” with the neoclassical house’. The result was a structure that mirrored the domestic scale of the Serpentine and articulated the landscape between the two buildings. The Pavilion was based on a simple rectangular grid, which was distorted to create a dynamic curvaceous form. It comprised interlocking timber beams, a material that accentuated the relationship between the Pavilion and surrounding Park.