出處Sanaa's summer pavilion brings sunshine to the Serpentine
It is a chilly, grey, wet morning at the Serpentine Gallery, but it doesn't matter. I'm sheltering under its summer pavilion, a delightful structure that's really more umbrella than building – or parasol, of course, when the sun comes back out. Meandering happily between the trees in the Serpentine's grounds at Kensington Gardens, it is the architectural equivalent of a stroll in the park.
Made of enormous sheets of aluminium polished to a mirror finish, and supported by slender stainless steel columns, the structure makes the raindrops look quite beautiful: the ceiling reflects them as they fall, so they seem to go up to the heavens, as well as down to earth. All we need is some trippy music and the pavilion, designed by the Japanese architectural collaborative Sanaa, will be complete.
This is clearly a good way to experience the structure, which was unveiled yesterday. As Ryue Nishizawa, one of Sanaa's two founding partners, says: "The pavilion is designed to amplify the way things look." But, as well as playing visual tricks, the swooping roofs, rising up from the ground to the canopies of trees and back down again, also amplify incidental sound: birdsong, the clip-clopping of horses, the thrum of passing traffic.
Seen from up high – from the Serpentine's roof terrace, or even from a passing aeroplane, say – the pavilion has another trick up its sleeve. It looks like a pool of water, a man-made lake perhaps, or a giant piece of jewellery, especially when sunlight gleams down on to its roof. It is easy to imagine miniature versions being sold in the Serpentine's shop. But, above all, this plaything, with all the games it plays on visitors' senses, feels as if it has embraced the park. Apart from a ring of transparent screens around its auditorium, the structure is open-ended, as if delivering a warm welcome to nature, visitors and the city beyond.
"When we started sketching ideas," says Nishizawa, "we thought of water, rainbows and leaves." This is one of the nice things about designing a summer pavilion: natural elements can be discussed without fear of embarrassment, or of being accused of green gimmicks. Sanaa's pavilion, the ninth at the Serpentine since Zaha Hadid kicked things off in 2000, will shelter the gallery's 24-hour Poetry Marathon, a whole day of poets reading their work, before being taken down and sold to a buyer with, presumably, a very big garden.
With each passing year (save for 2004, when a proposal by Dutch architects MVRDV to place a mountain over the gallery proved too ambitious) the Serpentine summer pavilions have generated increasing excitement. This is because they have all been designed by feted and fashionable architects who, for all their artistry and fame, had yet to build in London – or indeed, with the exception of Frank Gehry's Maggie's Centre in Dundee, anywhere in Britain. Also, because these aren't permanent buildings, they can afford to be experimental, playful, perverse or even, as Sanaa has set out to prove this summer, ethereal.
Sanaa has certainly designed some of the most extraordinarily ethereal buildings of recent years, including museums and art galleries in Japan and the US. The best known is 2007's New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York: each one of its six storeys, which all sit askew, seems like a box covered in steel mesh, apparently without windows. For the most part, daylight seeps into the galleries through skylights set into the parts that jut out. The effect is strange, as if visitors are walking through veiled space. Although some find this claustrophobic, I think it has a curiously contemplative character, as traditional Japanese buildings often do. "We may be influenced by Japanese architecture subconsciously," says Kazuyo Sejima, Sanaa's other founder. "But we don't think of ourselves as particularly Japanese architects."
Sanaa do seem to revel in creating otherworldly buildings that appear to touch the ground lightly, or rise from it as gently as summer blooms. As Nishizawa says: "When architecture falls away into the background, it can be incredibly beautiful. Sometimes, though, the background can fold into the building. Lightness sometimes translates into a feeling, certainly an atmosphere." This does seems especially true of their floating, looking-glass pavilion, which both sits in and captures its surroundings.
Other well-known Sanaa works include the Christian Dior store, situated in Tokyo's most fashionable street. At first glance, the Dior store seems to be a fairly conventional steel and glass tower. Close up, though, you notice that each floor is a very different height. The effect is striking – as is the fact that silky curtains run right round every floor, so the building shimmers all day and glows at night.
No less impressive is the Zollverein School of Management and Design in Essen, Germany. If transparent, translucent structures are Sanaa's trademark, the Zollverein School shows them in an entirely different mode: the building is a concrete cube cut into by a seemingly random pattern of identically sized windows. These let in daylight in a profusion of changing patterns. Even when working with concrete, imposing buildings, Sanaa manage to build in a little gentleness.
Evidently, though, the Serpentine Pavilion has been the perfect commission for Sejima and Nishizawa. The structure is as light as any covered space this side of a tent. "We are interested in relaxing the boundaries between inside and out," says Sejima. The pavilion should feel as gentle and contemplative as a magical woodland grove – although its inevitable popularity, coupled with the fact that it boasts a cafe, might make it hard to grab much more than a few quiet moments there.
Of all the Serpentine pavilions, Sanaa's ranks as one of the best not just because it is rather beautiful, but because it attempts to be no more and no less than a canopy set between trees, albeit one made of aluminium. Some past pavilions have been, perhaps, a little too substantial.
Sanaa, who are currently working on the Louvre's forthcoming outpost near Lille in northern France, are clearly on a roll. Despite the gentle and modest qualities of this parkland pavilion, it is easy, and indeed tempting, to see them growing into a substantial practice, with a stuffed order book.
The pair look aghast at such an idea. "There are 30 in our office," says Sejima, "and this seems nice. We want to keep the work and the office very personal." By way of explanation, she adds: "We begin designing with paper models and pencil drawings. Lots of them." At the Serpentine, in the lightest, most appealing way, one of these has come to life.
The Summer Pavilion is at the Serpentine Gallery, London W2, from 12 July-18 October. Details: [url]serpentinegallery.org[/url]