The inside view of the Pavilion, courtesy Serpentine.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
In a new collaboration with The Conran Shop, Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh has designed two new exclusive pieces of furniture for this year’s Pavilion at the Serpentine. The Serpentine Galleries are two contemporary art galleries in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Central London. Rebranded to just Serpentine, the organisation is split across Serpentine South, previously known as the Serpentine Gallery, and Serpentine North, previously known as the Sackler Gallery.
The gallery spaces are within five minutes’ walk of each other, linked by the bridge over the Serpentine Lake, from which the galleries get their names. Every year since 2000, Serpentine has commissioned a temporary Summer Pavilion by a leading architect. The Conran Shop is one of the world’s leading lifestyle retailers, offering an edit of furniture, lighting, and home accessories.
Celebrating nature and conviviality, the tables and stools are designed to dress the interior of the structure. Crafted from oak, with a dark red finish, the 25 tables and 57 stools come together to complete a ceremonial display inside the Pavilion. Honouring the history of the Serpentine building as a former teahouse, Ghotmeh also contributes a new menu based on organic ingredients in collaboration with British catering company Benugo. The menu will be available at the Pavilion throughout the summer months.
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Inspired by the architect’s Mediterranean heritage and fervent discussions around the table over current affairs, politics, personal lives, and dreams, the Pavilion furniture is titled A Table - a call to sit down together at a table to engage and participate in dialogue while sharing a meal.
As such, it features a concentric table along the perimeter, inviting people to convene, sit down, think, share and celebrate exchanges that enable new relationships to form. Considering food as an expression of care, the Pavilion’s design is a space for grounding and reflection on our relationship to land, nature and environment. By offering a moment of conviviality around a table, Ghotmeh welcomes us to share the ideas, concerns, joys, dissatisfactions, responsibilities, traditions, cultural memories, and histories that bring us together.
Built predominantly from bio-sourced and low-carbon materials, the Serpentine Pavilion 2023 continues Ghotmeh’s focus on sustainability and designing spaces that are conceived in dialogue with the natural environment that surrounds them.The design of the space responds to the shape of the surrounding tree canopies, while the internal wooden beams that encircle the perimeter of the Pavilion, emerge as thin tree trunks.
The fretwork panels that sit between the beams feature plant-like cut out patterns, allowing natural light and ventilation. The Pavilion’s pleated roof is inspired by a structure of a palm leaf and the lightwell in the middle furthers the space’s integration with its environment.
The structure’s modest low roof takes inspiration from togunas: structures found in Mali, West Africa, which are traditionally used for community gatherings to discuss current issues, but also to offer shade and relief from heat. The low-lying roofs of the structures encourage people to remain seated peacefully and pause throughout discussions.
Placing nature, the organic and sustainability at its core, Ghotmeh’s Pavilion is designed to minimise its carbon footprint and environmental impact, in line with Serpentine’s sustainability policy. The predominantly timber structure is light-weight and fully demountable, with a focus on sustainably sourced materials and the reusability of the structure after its time installed at Serpentine.
Ghotmeh noted that “the Pavilion rises as a wooden structure in keeping with the natural surroundings, inviting us to sit around exquisitely crafted stools and tables and take in the surroundings. Collaborating with The Conran Shop to create the tables and chairs I envisaged for the Pavilion, has been fantastic on this occasion. The Pavilion serves as a place of meeting, togetherness, conviviality, and joy, and the furniture serves as its focal point.” Bettina Korek, Chief Executive, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine, said: “We are honoured to unveil Lina Ghotmeh’s first structure in the UK, A Table, which continues in Serpentine’s mission of building new connections between artists and society. Drawing on natural elements that reflect its local surroundings, Ghotmeh’s design promotes unity and conviviality in its form and function. We are endlessly grateful to our loyal partners and supporters for making Ghotmeh’s remarkable concept for a Pavilion into an inspiring reality. Like all our programmes, A Table will be open to all, and our hub for free summer programming in the park.” On June 7, Ghotmeh will be in conversation with Obrist, exploring the inspiration behind the Pavilion, Ghotmeh’s “Archaeology of the Future” and the history of the commission. The 22nd Serpentine Pavilion also marks the ninth year of support from Pavilion Sponsors Goldman Sachs. Richard Gnodde, CEO, Goldman Sachs International, said: “Goldman Sachs is immensely proud of our long-standing partnership with Serpentine.
“Since 2015, we have been delighted to support the annual Serpentine Pavilion commission. Lina’s focus on the intersection of art, architecture and design, taking inspiration from nature and the surrounding parkland, (is) truly unique and will provide opportunities to convene, exchange ideas and reflect. Thank you to Lina, the team at Serpentine and all our partners for collaborating on this pioneering project.” This year’s Pavilion selection was made by Obrist, Korek, Director of Construction and Special Projects Julie Burnell, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Public Practice Yesomi Umolu, and Curator at Large, Architecture and Site-specific Projects Natalia Grabowska together with advisors Sir David Adjaye OM OBE and David Glover.
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