Sou Fujimoto’s cloud-like Serpentine Pavilion: What makes it special?

Sou Fujimoto - Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park, London, 2013, photo Iwan Baan
Sou Fujimoto – Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park, London, 2013

Fujimoto’s Serpentine Pavilion

Fujimoto’s temporary structure was created using 20mm white steel poles that were arranged in a complex latticework or interlacing pattern that appeared to emerge from the ground as an iridescent matrix would.

Taking up space in 350 square meters of lawn right at the forefront of the Serpentine Gallery, Fujimoto’s structure was delicately balanced with a lightweight and semi-transparent exterior that allowed it to look as though it was floating against the cloudy background.

Sou Fujimoto - Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park, London, 2013 photo Iwan Baan
Sou Fujimoto – Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park, London, 2013

Different purposes of the structure

Designed as a flexible and multi-purpose setting that could be used for social events, visitors were encouraged to enter and interact with the pavilion throughout its 4-month tenure at the gardens. The pavilion even had a café inside.

Sketch by Sou Fujimoto for Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park, London, 2013
Sketch by Sou Fujimoto for Serpentine Pavilion

Each unit used to create the semi-transparent pavilion was composed of steel bars that formed a see-through, irregular ring that allowed visitors to remain part of the landscape without being affected by the elements.

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Analysis

The Serpentine Pavilion helped to explore the fundamental question of how architecture differs from nature or how architecture could be included or merged as part of nature. In general, the project was created to explore the boundaries that exist between nature and artificial things.

Sou Fujimoto - Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park, London, 2013 photo Iwan Baan
Sou Fujimoto – Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park, London, 2013

Because the gardens where the pavilion was located were green, and since the pavilion itself was transparent, it created a new environment and architecture that forced the natural and the artificial to merge and blend in perfectly.

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Reja in Tirana, Albania

Reja is one of the most popular public works installed in Albania. Reja was designed by well-known and celebrated Japanese artist Sou Fujimoto. It is now installed at Tirana at the Gallery of Arts. Tirana was the second city to host the masterpiece after London hosted it first. Also commonly referred to as The Cloud, the construction is inspired by organic shapes that are naturally found in the environment.

In this piece, the manufactured and natural combine to create a massive artificial nest. The delicate quality of the structure, enhanced by its opaque nature, is what helps to construct a geometric, massive cloud-like form that gives the illusion that mist or fog is rising from the ripples and waves of the park.

The nest was created using 20mm diameter steel bars that form an opaque, cloud-like design where visitors become an integral aspect of nature and the landscape while remaining protected within the structure. Each unit was made with fine steel bars measuring 800 and 400 mm, which were interconnected to create small rectangles.

The pavilion was made with two entrances. The pavilion contains a series of stepped terraces that provide seating areas for those visiting. Children and adults are allowed to climb to the top of the structure and take a seat underneath the city’s sky. Today, the Cloud is also frequently used for theatre and musical performances.

About Sou Fujimoto

Sou Fujimoto is easily one of the most recognizable figures in Japanese architecture and for a good reason; he is described as one of the most innovative architects of his generation.

Over the years, his works have shaped contemporary architecture across Japan and Europe. Fujimoto’s buildings are built around the concept that a building’s function should always be determined by human behavior.

Although he was 41 at the time of the exhibition, Sou Fujimoto was the youngest artist to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, a world-famous art center in London that features commissions from some of the world’s most prominent architects.

Some of the architects that have been featured in the past include Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer (deceased) and Herzog & de Meuron. Fujimoto was the 13th architect to be featured at the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2013.

Influence and background

Born in Hokkaido, Japan, Sou Fujimoto was first inspired to pursue architecture by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. Known for his intricate and ornate structures that question the limits and the role that architecture plays in society today, his projects often become living and social environments that give visitors the freedom to behave and interact with them in ways that feel natural and undisturbed.

Although his work at the 2013 Serpentine Pavilion was his very first, he has built a reputation for himself for creating elaborately complex spaces such a glass-walled public toilet1, as well as his work in the Mille Arbres area2 in Paris

All images: Iwan Baan/iwan.com for Sou Fujimoto unless otherwise noted.

More by Sou Fujimoto

Other Serpentine Pavilions

Footnotes

  1. https://www.designboom.com/architecture/sou-fujimotos-public-toilet-in-ichihara-is-a-garden-escape-10-29-2013/
  2. https://inhabitat.com/vertical-village-built-almost-entirely-of-wood-to-rise-in-paris/vertical-village-by-sou-fujimoto-nicolas-laisne-dimitri-roussel-4

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