Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009

Structural Designer

Arup

Client Name

Serpentine Gallery Trust

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The Serpentine Galley Pavilion is a delightfully crafted composition of considerable complexity, yet which displays the hallmark qualities of beauty and simplicity. The pavilion is a temporary structure built to showcase architecture. The 2009 design by SANAA architects called for a highly polished, thin metal roof of free form shape, supported by a field of slender, reed-like columns. The result is stunning. The structure applies a delicate touch, boldly exuding lightness and transparency.

The absence of detail draws attention to the form. Rhythmic and elegant, the meandering structure embraces the park, and even its unnatural texture seems completely at home.

The unique design posed structural challenges throughout, with the majority of attention focused on the roof. An innovative solution evolved using sandwich panels with a marine-grade plywood core to provide the necessary strength and stiffness, clad with a bonded mirror-finish sheet aluminium skin to display the dramatic visual qualities. Discreet panel joints were needed to reflect the desired seamless appearance. Staggered tongue-and-groove panel edges provided the requisite connectivity and careful manufacturing limited the joint widths to 5 mm.

The novel roof design needed physical testing to verify that the panel performance would prove visually acceptable. The tests demonstrated excellent behaviour, but highlighted the need for fixings to prevent joint opening. Recessed countersunk screws were used to preserve the flush surfaces throughout.

Three-dimensional modelling was used to replicate the architecturally optimal geometry on which the panel layout was overlain. The panels were CNC manufactured directly from this model to ensure a precision fit and a high-quality finished appearance. The overall message is effectiveness, beauty, and excellence.

Judge's comment:

"A flowing design theme with contextual sensitivity. Superb realisation of a bold architectural concept and well-considered solution to complex design challenges."