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The Serpentine Pavilion 2024 – a ‘Human Roundabout’

The Serpentine Pavilion 2024 – a ‘Human Roundabout’

Markus Appenzeller

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of this year’s serpentine pavilion by Korean Architect Minsuk Cho of Mass Studies. It was a beautiful event with the expected crowd to turn up – starchitects and wannabe stars, friends of the author and their friends, culture scene aficionados and not to forget, the masters of the universe in the form of global banking and philanthropy. This week, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of this year’s serpentine pavilion by Korean Architect Minsuk Cho of Mass Studies. It was a beautiful event with the expected crowd to turn up – starchitects and wannabe stars, friends of the author and their friends, culture scene aficionados and not to forget, the masters of the universe in the form of global banking and philanthropy.

While this crowd would already suffice to entertain, they were only the extras to this year’s pavilion. A building that impresses in a very different way than previous editions.

It could be called an ‘anti-pavillion’ for its centre is a void. It is not a building but a village. It is not a structure one can grasp at a glance. And it is not an architecture that wants to impress. In negating all aspects that characterize what Minsuk’s predecessors did, he creates something that is rather unusual and celebrates aspects architecture had lost in recent decades – supporting human acts, rather than dominating and constraining them. This structure is a stage set for the ordinary and extraordinary daily life. It is a device that facilitates social encounter and hedonism, cultural consumption and the creation of it, and it allows to just be without a purpose.

Minsuk arranges five rooms around an open void. In his own words, he dubs this a ‘human roundabout’ – a distributor, but also a place to collectively celebrate. Around this circular space, he arranged five different spaces – a structure for exercise or hang out, a multipurpose space, a library, a hall and an auditorium. Each one of these spaces has its own proportions to support these functions and creates the village like appeal, further supported by the open edges around the central space for maximum permeability. Only a raised wooden ring and the paving delineate the ‘roundabout’.

The ensemble is held together by its black, masterfully crafted timber structure and the choice of colourful plastic materials of different translucency and tactility as a counterpoint.

Minsuk chose not to turn this pavilion into yet another manifesto for sustainable architecture and green design, and that comes as a relief, since in fact it is exactly that. The wood is locally sourced and all is assembled in such a way that it easily can be taken apart and reused elsewhere.

It is good that other Serpentine Pavilions only were temporary structures, since they were fragile constructions or did not provide much shelter from the forces of nature. For this year’s pavilion, one hopes that it will have an afterlife as a place for encounter and interaction. The sturdy structure would certainly allow for that – yet another aspect of the sustainability one would wish for in more buildings: good design, well-made to last.

There is not much more one could wish for for the future of architecture than what this Serpentine Pavilion embodies. Congratulations Minsuk Cho!

More on the pavilion

by Markus Appenzeller

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