The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 96 (2018) > Issue 11 > Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2017
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Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2017

The annual Summer Pavilion programme at the Serpentine Gallery in London is unique. It presents the work of an international architect, or design team, who has not completed a building in England at the time of the Gallery’s invitation. The design and construction of each pavilion must be completed within six months and it remains situated on the Gallery’s lawn throughout the summer for the public to explore and enjoy, before being demounted and relocated to a permanent site.

The commission for the 2017 pavilion was accepted by Berlin-based Burkinabe, Francis Kéré and his practice. For the fifth year, AECOM provided technical design services including structural and civil engineering, fire engineering, specialist lighting and electrical design. The project was successfully completed on time and within budget, opening to the public in June 2017.

This article describes the technical and engineering challenges of delivering Francis Kéré’s vision of a floating steel-and-timber tree-like canopy over the sinuous timber walls that define the spaces inside the pavilion. Those spaces provided a temporary home to a wide range of community-based activities, ranging from cookery classes led by asylum seekers to ‘Build your own pavilion’ workshops, opening up the world of engineering and design to future generations.

A fusion of traditional design methods combined with the very latest digital modelling technologies was used in the delivery of the pavilion. This included pioneering examples of combining augmented and virtual reality throughout the whole design and construction process, which enabled the intricate details of the pavilion to be quickly communicated and fully resolved before fabrication and construction commenced.

Author(s): M. Orr, J. Leach and A. Koerbel (all AECOM)