Sou Fujimoto is the thirteenth and, at 41, youngest architect to accept the invitation to design a temporary structure for the Serpentine Gallery. The most ambitious architectural programme of its kind worldwide, the Serpentine's annual Pavilion commission is one of the most anticipated events on the cultural calendar. Past Pavilions have included designs by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei (2012), Frank Gehry (2008), the late Oscar Niemeyer (2003) and Zaha Hadid, who designed the inaugural structure in 2000.
Widely acknowledged as one of the most important architects coming to prominence worldwide, Sou Fujimoto is the leading light of an exciting generation of artists who are re-inventing our relationship with the built environment. Inspired by organic structures, such as the forest, the nest and the cave, Fujimoto's signature buildings inhabit a space between nature and artificiality. Fujimoto has completed the majority of his buildings in Japan, with commissions ranging from the domestic, such as Final Wooden House, T House and House N, to the institutional, such as the Musashino Art Museum and Library at Musashino Art University.
Occupying some 350 square-metres of lawn in front of the Serpentine Gallery, Sou Fujimoto's delicate, latticed structure of 20mm steel poles will have a lightweight and semi-transparent appearance that will allow it to blend, cloud-like, into the landscape and against the classical backdrop of the Gallery's colonnaded East wing. Designed as a flexible, multi-purpose social space - with a café sited inside - visitors will be encouraged to enter and interact with the Pavilion in different ways throughout its four-month tenure in London's Kensington Gardens.
Describing his design concept, Sou Fujimoto said:
"For the 2013 Pavilion I propose an architectural landscape: a transparent terrain that encourages people to interact with and explore the site in diverse ways. Within the pastoral context of Kensington Gardens, I envisage the vivid greenery of the surrounding plant life woven together with a constructed geometry. A new form of environment will be created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural nor solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two.
The Pavilion will be a delicate, three-dimensional structure, each unit of which will be composed of fine steel bars. It will form a semi-transparent, irregular ring, simultaneously protecting visitors from the elements while allowing them to remain part of the landscape. The overall footprint will be 350 square-metres and the Pavilion will have two entrances. A series of stepped terraces will provide seating areas that will allow the Pavilion to be used as a flexible, multi-purpose social space.
The delicate quality of the structure, enhanced by its semi-transparency, will create a geometric, cloud-like form, as if it were mist rising from the undulations of the park. From certain vantage points, the Pavilion will appear to merge with the classical structure of the Serpentine Gallery, with visitors suspended in space."