Page D1.1 . 03 September 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Postcard from London

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A temporary pavilion outside the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London, by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Photography by Don Barker.

Dear ArchitectureWeek,

Coinciding with the launch of the United Kingdom's Architecture Week 2003, June saw the opening of the fourth temporary pavilion outside the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park in London. This year's structure was designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and is the first UK building by the man who designed Brasilia, his country's capital city. As in previous years, the pavilion will be dismantled and sold at the end of the summer in September.

Free-flowing forms of concrete are Neimeyer's trademark, and this is evident even in this temporary structure. But because of its size and materials, you would be forgiven for thinking it is intended to be permanent. With engineering by Arup, the building has a steel-structured, partly cantilevered exposed concrete deck.

A steel staircase takes you down into a semi-submerged auditorium space providing an eloquent seating area. The aluminum-clad roof has two sloping sides, meeting in a Neimeyer-trademark curved central section. A large glass wall spans the two roof-supporting columns with a combination of glass and curved concrete balustrades placed along all exposed edges. Not surprisingly, this is the largest and the most expensive temporary pavilion the Serpentine has built so far.

Maybe because it's temporary, this structure looks like it was taken straight from conceptual sketch to concrete and steel. That is the key to these annual projects: they can be experimental. Despite its short life, it is exciting to have a Niemeyer building here.

Yours from London,
Don Barker


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