Lina Ghotmeh’s Serpentine Pavilion 2023 set to open | Meeting place

Serpentine Pavilion 2023 designed by Lina Ghotmeh

A first look at the Serpentine Pavilion 2023, which was designed by French-Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh, has been revealed.

Due to open to the public on Friday 9th June, the pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens is a circular timber structure that “serves as a place of meeting, togetherness, conviviality, and joy,” according to Ghotmeh. 

Sustainably sourced timber ribs are arranged to support a suspended pleated plywood roof

Named À Table, the 300-square-metre pavilion was inspired by Ghotmeh’s Mediterranean heritage and fervent discussions around the table over current affairs, politics, and dreams, and calls for visitors to sit down and engage and participate in dialogue while sharing a meal. 

The encompassing and encircling structure shelters a concentric table, which follows the perimeter of the pavilion’s interior and offers a place to “celebrate exchanges that enable new relationships to form”, as the Serpentine team describe. 

A concentric table along the perimeter invites visitors to convene, sit down, think, and celebrate exchanges

In response to the shape of the surrounding tree canopies, the design features internal wooden beams that encircle the perimeter of the pavilion and emerge as thin tree trunks. The fretwork panels that sit between the beams feature plant-like cut-out patterns, allowing natural light and ventilation. 

Bio-sourced and low-carbon materials are an important part of the design which is lightweight, fully demountable, and designed to minimise its footprint. The structure’s modest low roof, set above a 3.4-metre oculus, takes inspiration from togunas – these structures are found in Mali, West Africa, and they are traditionally used for community gatherings to discuss current issues. 

Perforated plywood panels enclose the interior space, letting natural light filter in

Ghotmeh explains how her design is “in keeping with the natural surroundings, inviting us to sit around exquisitely crafted stools and tables and take in the surroundings.”

“Echoing the structures of tree leaves, the pavilion embraces the nature of the park in which it emerges. Reminding us of the many lives blossoming beneath our feet, the concave lines of its perimeter are drawn from the forms in the stems and canopies of adjacent trees.”

“In my practice as an architect, I excavate to design (and learn) from the traces of the past and I listen to the voices of my ancestors as well as those of our living world. These voices vividly resonate with future structures as ways to influence and challenge tomorrow’s architecture.” 

The pavilion’s shape was informed by the surrounding tree canopy

Ghotmeh collaborated with the design team at The Conran Shop to create the tables and chairs that she had envisioned for the pavilion. Crafted from oak with a dark-red finish, the 25 tables and 57 stalls come together to complete the ceremonial display inside the pavilion. 

As in previous years, the pavilion will host the Serpentine’s Park Nights programme which includes live music, poetry, spoken words, and dance events, alongside its education and civic ‘activations’. 

Its demountable design allows for the structure to be rebuilt at a different location after it closes at Kensington Gardens on 29th October 2023.

Two main entrances to the pavilion link existing footpaths on the site

Photography is by Iwan Baan, courtesy of Serpentine.

Lina Ghotmeh is the 22nd architect to be commissioned for the Serpentine Pavilion since the first structure was designed by Zaha Hadid in 2000. 

The first announcement revealing the Serpentine Pavilion 2023 was in November 2022. For more of all the latest industry and architecture news stay right here on enki.


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