Barbers, books and boozers: how migrant hotspots inspired the Serpentine Pavilion

Barbers, books and boozers: how migrant hotspots inspired the Serpentine PavilionJune 8, 2021

The bars, cafes, bookshops and even hair salons of London all fed into this year’s enormous pavilion. Sumayya Vally, the project’s youngest ever architect, explains all

Fragments of fluted classical columns collide with steps, ledges and bits of curved moulding, like an impromptu playground collaged together from an architectural salvage yard. It is an intriguing dream landscape, with ghostly echoes of familiar London features, all rendered in creamy shades of cement and brought together beneath an enormous circular roof that hovers six metres overhead.

This is the new Serpentine Pavilion designed by Counterspace, a Johannesburg practice led by 31-year-old Indian South African architect, Sumayya Vally. It is fitting that the youngest architect ever selected for the annual commission should come up with one of the biggest structures yet. Its size is not only in its physical heft, but in its far-reaching scope beyond the bounds of Kensington Gardens: for the first time, this year sees four additional structures scattered across the city, as well as the launch of a new fellowship programme for artists working with spatial politics and community practice.

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