“My design for the Pavilion plays with our perspectives of the built environment against the backdrop of a natural landscape,” describes Japanese architect Junya Ishigami on his swooping slate-roofed structure. This week marks the opening of the Serpentine Pavilion 2019, with Ishigami being the nineteenth architect invited to take part in the series.
Although working with rock, a heavy and earthy material, there is a lightness to the curvature of this year’s Pavilion. The organic and floating hill is in synergy with Ishigami’s oeuvre, with a reputation as a “conjurer” of space, his gravity-defying structures seem to float. Ishigami explains that the Pavilion is, “possessing the weighty presence of slate roofs seen around the world, and simultaneously appearing so light it could blow away in the breeze, the cluster of scattered rock levitates, like a billowing piece of fabric.”
Born in the Japanese prefecture of Kanagawa in 1974, Junya Ishigami is an experimental architect. Designs take inspiration from nature and transparency, giving a sense of ‘magic’ to the projects. After working with Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa at SANAA, Ishigami went on to found his firm junya.ishigami+associates, winning plenty of awards for his projects and experimental structures.
The Cave Canopy
Arranging slate tiles into a swooping shape, there is a dynamic between lightness and being enclosed in a cave-like space. This cave element to Ishigami’s designs has been evidenced before with the cloud-like structure for the House of Peace in Denmark, and the Restaurant Noel set to open later this year, which involved excavating from a large rock.
Ishigami’s use of slate took inspiration from roofs, articulating a sense of harmony between primitive and ancient, as well drawing your mind to man-made structures alongside those that already exist in nature.
The Compromise and Controversy
Despite continually able to push the boundaries with barely there structures, The Guardian reported that this year’s Pavilion design hit a snag when it buffed up against the UK‘s Health and Safety ordinances. Wind analysis made it necessary to incorporate more walls and columns, destroying the seamless open plan flow that had been intended.
Even before opening, Ishigami’s firm came under fire following the news that they take on unpaid internships, which came to light during Adam Nathaniel Furman’s #archislavery campaign in March. The Serpentine explained its policy that all staff working on the Pavilion project must be paid, a rule which Ishigami agreed to abide by. Japanese architects and designers defended unpaid internships as a cultural tradition in Japan.
It’s been a tough job for the Serpentine Gallery to choose which architect to commission each year, which began in 2000 with Zaha Hadid. In recent years we have seen striking pieces from Francis Kéré of Burkina Faso, as well as the seemingly woven structure by Mexican architect Frida Escobedo.
The Pavilion will be on display for free for the public to visit, at London’s Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park, from June to October 2019.