South African studio Counterspace led by architect Sumayya Vally has unveiled a pink and grey structure built from elements informed by buildings in London as this year's Serpentine Pavilion. Vally, who was recently named one of Time magazine's 100 leaders of the future, is the youngest architect to receive the prestigious commission.
The coronavirus-delayed structure designed by Vally was designed to reference informal meeting spaces in areas of London that have large migrant populations. "My practice, and this pavilion, is centred around amplifying and collaborating with multiple and diverse voices from many different histories; with an interest in themes of identity, community, belonging and gathering," said Vally.
Counterspace's pavilion is the 20th temporary structure to be built in Kensington Gardens near the Serpentine Gallery as part of the annual programme. To create the pavilion, Vally spent four months in London investigating spaces of gathering that were significant to migrant communities. These include the Fazl Mosque and East London Mosque, which were some of the first mosques built in the city, the Centerprise cooperative bookshops in Hackney, The Four Aces Club on Dalston Lane and The Mangrove Caribbean restaurant in Notting Hill.
Abstracted elements of each of these buildings and many structures that have been demolished were combined to form the pavilion's columns and inbuilt furniture. The resulting pink and grey structure was built from a steel frame wrapped in plywood timber that was CNC-cut to give the building's intricate reliefs. These boards were largely covered with pink and grey micro-cement sealed with water-based resin, with several black-stained cork panels positioned on the exterior of the pavilion.
Vally and the organisers aimed to create a pavilion that had a minimal carbon impact. Like all of the previous pavilions, it will be fully dismantled at the end of the summer, when it will be relocated and re-erected by its new owners, spa operator Therme Group. Consultant AECOM produced a carbon report that takes into account the construction of the building along with its dismantling and transportation of the structure at the end of the summer that concluded the pavilion is a carbon-negative structure.
Along with the main pavilion in central London, four fragments of the building have been constructed across the city to extend the reach of the project. "The past year has drawn these themes sharply into focus and has allowed me the space to reflect on the incredible generosity of the communities that have been integral to this pavilion," Vally said. "This has given rise to several initiatives that extend the duration, scale and reach of the pavilion beyond its physical lifespan."