Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron to build Serpentine pavilion
Four years after collaborating on the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing, the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will reunite to build a temporary construction that will be connected with the end of London's Cultural Olympiad.
For the last several years, the small Serpentine Gallery (a former tea house) has been commissioning pavilions, built as a temporary adjunct to their space, from some of the world's most renowned designers, including Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind and Oscar Niemeyer.
A few details about the Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron commission -- the 12th so far -- have been released, the most notable being that the floating platform of a roof will barely be five feet off of the ground. The idea is that it will collect rainwater on the surface, perfect for reflecting the moody London sky, or it can be drained for dance events. The trio also plans to dig a few feet deep into the soil below so that visitors can walk beneath the roof, which will be supported by 12 columns, 11 representing past pavilions and one for the current.
The Serpentine pavilion assignment marks an upswing in an otherwise traumatic couple of years for Weiwei. Though he won accolades for his October 2010 work in the Tate Modern, which found him filling the museum's Turbine Hall with an enormous carpet of hand-fired porcelain sunflower seeds, he was arrested in April 2011 and then detained for nearly three months by the Chinese authorities without official charges. Country officials alleged later it was for tax evasion but it's widely seen as punishment for the artist's outspoken views.
Weiwei has been planning the project with Herzog & de Meuron over Skype but it's uncertain whether he will be permitted to leave China to see his finished work, due for completion in June.
-- Margaret Wappler
Photo: Ai Weiwei holds up tax documents shortly after his detention for alleged tax evasion in China. Credit: Andy Wong /Associated Press