AECOM engineers its ninth Pavilion at the Serpentine Galleries

LONDON (June 07, 2022) — AECOM, the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, has delivered its ninth Pavilion project for the Serpentine Galleries in London, and is celebrating ten years as the Gallery’s technical advisor across all its exhibitions and estate developments.

This year’s Pavilion has been designed by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, with the architectural support of Adjaye Associates and AECOM providing the full range of engineering, technical advisory and project management services.

Working closely with the design team, Serpentine Galleries, the project’s contractor Stage One and technical advisor David Glover, AECOM has realised Theaster’s vision for Black Chapel, which draws inspiration from the architectural typologies of chapels and the great kilns of Stoke-on-Trent, England. The structure’s circularity and volume echo the form of a sacred space or chapel that protects and gathers.


Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.


At over 10 metres tall, the Pavilion is one of the largest to date and has an emphasis on low carbon and reusable materials. Parametric modelling was used to optimise the volume of the internal space against the material use and budget. The timber cylindrical superstructure sits beneath a spoke wheel roof, creating a central oculus and single source of light that floods into the space below.

The structural design takes fully exposed timber technology that is more commonly used in domestic floor construction, to new heights, using lightweight MiTek posi-joists and a plywood stressed skin that has resulted in an extremely lightweight superstructure with minimal foundations. The structure is highly repetitive, allowing the team to focus on a small number of critical details and minimise material use.

Madalina Taylor, Senior Engineer, AECOM, said: “The Pavilion appears very simple from the outside, but looks can be deceptive. Using light-weight timber technology at this scale has required careful analysis, research, mock-ups and physical testing to ensure it performs both at the Serpentine Galleries and in its future life. With a focus on making the Pavilion entirely demountable, we’ve created a very low carbon structure that will host a diverse and exciting programme of summer events.”

The modular build, prefabricated at Stage One’s facility in York, adopts standard sizes for the timber panels in order to minimise waste. Any residual waste timber has been chipped and used in Stage One’s biomass system that heats its buildings, meaning no waste has been transported away from the fabrication site.

The entire superstructure, including the timber-framed walls, roof and suspended floor, along with its small, low-cement foundations, is fully demountable using simple bolts and screws, and the structure’s rubber waterproofing membrane can be easily separated from the timber frame and reused or recycled. This approach results in a very low upfront carbon footprint for the build and allows the Pavilion to be completely rebuilt in a new location after its first life in Kensington Gardens.

This year the team has worked with Grace Farms Foundation, who have audited the materials sourced for the Pavilion to ensure they are ethically sourced from sustainable supply chains.


Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates © Theaster Gates Studio. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy: Serpentine.


The Pavilion is set to host a dynamic programme of events throughout the summer, including the return of the Gallery’s Park Nights programme, music and dance performances and educational community workshops.

The Serpentine Pavilion architectural commission showcases new temporary buildings by international architects. Zaha Hadid was the first architect selected to present her design in 2000. This year marks the Serpentine Galleries’ 21st  Pavilion, which is open to the public from June to October.