Serpentine Pavilion 2023

United Kingdom

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As technical advisor, AECOM’s role is to bridge the gap between client and architect, so that the finished structure encapsulates the architectural vision whilst being rooted in a robust technical design..

This year’s Pavilion À table, designed by French-Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh is built predominantly from bio-sourced and low-carbon materials and continues Ghotmeh’s focus on sustainability and designing spaces that are conceived in dialogue with the natural environment that surrounds them.

We’ve now been the Pavilion’s engineers for a decade, and each year the project gives us the opportunity to push the art of the possible in areas such as material selection, carbon reduction, reusability, and sustainable supply chain sourcing.

The fixed budget and short programme of the annual project has always driven spontaneity, innovation, and creativity. Balancing the ability of the architect to freely express their vision with practical cost, buildability, time, and functional constraints, as well as the restrictions of working within the Royal Parks, is a key challenge that the team embraces each year.

The lightweight plywood canopy is supported by slender plywood ribs, with steel flitching used only in very specific areas where it is required to restrain the slender glulam rafters. The glulam columns work in tandem with the delicate fretwork wall panels to stabilise the structure without the need for any additional bracing.

The centre of the canopy is covered using a bespoke and elegant pretensioned fabric structure to allow natural light and ventilation to penetrate the internal space.

The design optimisation process has minimised the material use and allowed every piece of the structure to contribute to the delicate architectural form. The result is an extremely lightweight superstructure with minimal foundations that are weighed down using site-won ballast.

The modular build, prefabricated in Stage One’s facility in York, has been optimised to minimise wastage and to simplify the fabrication and erection. Any residual waste timber is chipped and used in Stage One’s efficient biomass system that heats their buildings, meaning no waste needs to be transported away from the fabrication site.

The lighting design seeks to emphasise the clean lines of the canopy, with the cable and control systems carefully recessed into the timber structure so they are hidden from view.

The Pavilion has been assessed from an embodied carbon perspective throughout the design period, and the already low environmental impact has been further reduced through the use of sustainably sourced timber and reusable materials. The team has also audited the materials sourced for the Pavilion to ensure they are ethically sourced from sustainable supply chains.

Structural connections are all discretely hidden to create a simple and flawless carpentry that reflects the furniture inside.

The entire superstructure, including the timber-framed walls, roof and suspended floor, along with its small precast, low-cement pad foundations, is fully demountable using simple bolts and screws. 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.

Like previous Pavilions that have successfully relocated in the UK and overseas, this commitment to the future repurposing of the 2023 Pavilion ensures the structure will be reused despite the temporary nature of the initial installation.

Located in Kensington Gardens, the project is not permitted to install any permanent foundations or intrusion in the ground in the form of piles or anchors and the lawn must be returned to its virgin state after the Pavilion has been removed. However, permanent electrical and water infrastructure has been installed along with below-ground rainwater attenuation and connection to adjacent soakaways. These features are reused each year, and the ground works designed to balance the cut and fill volumes.

Serpentine Pavilion 2023 designed by Lina Ghotmeh. © Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture. Photo: Iwan Baan, Courtesy: Serpentine.


Serpentine Pavilion 2023 designed by Lina Ghotmeh. © Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture. Photo: Iwan Baan, Courtesy: Serpentine.