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Is this time of year again, summer shows are on and London has a great tradition for architecture summer shows. Two events that are a highlight every year are the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture Summer Show and the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion.

Images by the Bartlett on Flickr / Megalomania by Jonathan Gales.

Both have opened this weekend. The Bartlett Summer Show will be on for the next week and the Serpentine Pavilion will be on until October. Both are a must see and definitely worth a visit. It does not require you to spend three full hours for each event, however you could. This is the interesting thing, both events/locations are very flexible, it might be even worth going twice.

The Bartlett Summer Show is the end of the academic year show of the entire Bartlett School of Architecture units. Its is already for years every year at the Slade School of Art in the main UCL court at the north end. THere is a lot of space but if the Bartlett takes over its jame packed and models drawings and makings fill floor and walls up to the ceiling, visitors can be happy if they find a little walkway in between al the material produced. And this is even only a selection of students projects on show here.

Images by the Bartlett on Flickr / Some of the Bartlett Summer Show highlights.

The show is organised by unit with each unit having done their own architectural projects, research and development you can expect a highly divers range of projects and visualisations. THere is stil however an sort of overall style or aura to each Bartlett project.

The Serpentine Summer Pavilion on the other hand is a single object. The Serpentine Gallery invites an architect (not sure how they define this) every year to build a pavilion structure for the duration of the summer just outside the Gallery in Hyde Park. The idea is to bring visionary architects from all over the world to England who have not built anything in the UK before. The project started in 2000 with a contribution by Zaha Hadid and has since collected an impressive list of names including Neymeier, Koolhas, Gherry, Elliasson and so on.

Serpentine Pavilion by Zumtor - model
Images by habitables / The pavilion model as a preview for 2010.

This years pavilion is created by the Swiss architect Peter Zumtor. The Prizker Prize Winner 2009 is respected for his quiete but very strong style. His dedicated use of material has become a trademark. He is not new to the idea of building a pavilion. In 2000 he built the Swiss Pavilion for the World Expo in Hannover, a wood pile branded ‘Klang Koerper’ (Sound Box). Other acclaimed projects include the thermal bath in Vals, Switzerland, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Germany or the KOLUMBA Art museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne. See this article on Dezeen for an overview.

Serpentine Pavilion by Zumtor - model
Images by Phaidon / The pavilion with the secret garden as it looks in real in 2011.

This years Summer Pavilion is a secret garden, a black box with a very quiet and enclosed garden. Protected and well looked after it reassembles a medieval
The specially created garden by the influential Dutch designer Piet Oudolf.

As the Serpentine describes the projects:”The concept for this year’s Pavilion is the hortus conclusus, a contemplative room, a garden within a garden. One enters the building from the lawn and begins the transition into the central garden, a place abstracted from the world of noise and traffic and the smells of London – an interior space within which to sit, to walk, to observe the flowers. With this Pavilion, as with previous structures such as the famous Thermal Baths at Vals, Switzerland, or the Bruder Klaus Chapel in Mechernich, Germany, Zumthor has emphasised the sensory and spiritual aspects of the architectural experience, from the precise yet simple composition and ‘presence’ of the materials, to the handling of scale and the effect of light.”

The black box has a special materiality to it. It is essentially a plywood box treated with a cotton fabric and painted. This creates a sort of warm and calm atmosphere. A lot of the noise is being swallowed by this surface. It does completely transform the wood properties and as a look it has more of a concrete quality to it. However, in use (while running or stamping or touching there is of course no stone or concrete quality to it. Also in terms of temperature there is no stone quality is is warm an lacks the summer cooling quality of stone or concreet.

Nevertheless, the focus was ont eh quietness, formality and temporality of the pavilion. Regarding those aspects the material is used in a surprising and beneficial quality. It is an experiment, but it works as an image.

As a place it works well and is definitely a departure form previous catering and fun centered pavilions. Some of the visitors then complained about not having a cafeteria integrated with the structure, but only a coffee van outside the main Gallery. On the other hand the quiet and strong atmosphere is very present once one has reached the inside. with the garden and the open roof. The impact and quality of it is probably best assessed by children, of whom some can be observed to quietly stand or sit, some even lay down on the benches, relaxing and diving into the quietness and strength of the formal architecture. Zumtor has the capability to create architecture at such a level of strength.


The Bartlett Summer Show is the annual celebration of student work at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Over 450 students show innovative drawings, models, devices, texts, animations and installations. Saturday 2nd July, 10.00 – 20.30, Sunday 3rd July, 10.00 – 17.30, Monday 4th July, 10.00 – 17.30, Tuesday 5th July, 10.00 – 17:30, Wednesday 6th July, 10.00 – 17.30, Thursday 7th July, 10.00 – 20.30, Friday 8th July, 10.00 – 20.30, Saturday 9th July, 10.00 – 17.00 (show closes). Ticket Information: Exhibition open to the public.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011, Designed by Peter Zumthor, 1 July – 16 October 2011.

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