A segmented conglomeration, seemingly constructed out of cellophane and party streamers, was constructed as the Serpentine Pavilion 2015. Photos of the architectural creation plastered in London Time Out a few months ago piqued my curiosity. I had to visit. I wanted to be surrounded by the effervescent material, and I am glad I went. The immersive experience cannot be conveyed solely in photographs. Upon entering the pavilion, I was transported into a small wonderland.
Shimmering panels, capturing the multiples hues of a bubble in sunlight, stretched over a frame to create the inner layer of the chamber. Bright ribbons crisscrossed to create a permeable outer layer, each group of intersections forming small windows to the outside atmosphere. The experience of traversing in and out of the various layers, watching other spectators turn into phantom figures as they walked behind panels, fascinated me. Every new angle of the structure brought a new discovery, which was exactly what the Spanish creators of Selgascano had intended.
The interactive construction reminded me of “The Bean” (actually named Cloud Gate) in Chicago’s Millennium Park, with its rounded reflective surfaces and distortion of reality. The shape and material really invite viewers to explore the negative space, and conversely the positive space, of the construction. José Selgas and Lucía Cano explain, “The spatial qualities of the pavilion only unfold when accessing the structure and being immersed within it. Each entrance allows for a specific journey through the space, characterised by colour, light and irregular shapes with surprising volumes” (serpentinegalleries.org). A tour of the pavilion is much more informative than simply viewing a picture.
I appreciated that access to the pavilion was free and open to the public, but the apathetic curators dressed in scrubby black clothing dampened the whimsical atmosphere, as they slouched near the donations box, ready to leave as soon as the visitors cleared out. And although the white and teal chairs and tables of Fortnum and Mason may have matched the color scheme, the café made the space felt more privatized – encouraging the sentiment that those who had spent money on a coffee or ice cream were the only ones entitled to sit down and enjoy the space. If I visit the structure before it is deconstructed next weekend I will try to not let these factors affect my experience.
A trip to this marvelous, shimmering chrysalis is amusing and rewarding. The dreamlike quality of the pavilion was emphasized by the deep hues of autumn foliage visible outside, tinged behind one layer of an aquamarine screen, but visible from small passageways between strips of brilliant orange, yellow and green ribbon. Because the creation interacted with its outside surroundings, it would be wonderful to reconstruct the pavilion so it could be surrounded by an evergreen forest or a lavender field, or complemented by the blushing pink petals of sakura trees in bloom.