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01 Feb 2018

Serpentine Pavilion enters world stage with Beijing expansion

The Serpentine Pavilion programme – one of the highlights of the UK's architectural calendar – is coming to Beijing in 2018.

A major international agreement has been struck between Chinese retail giant WF Central and the Serpentine Galleries, which organises the long-running annual pavilion showcase in London’s Kensington Gardens.

The inaugural pavilion has been designed by Chinese firm JIAKUN Architects, and it is set to open in May on the lawns of The Green at WF Central – a 150,000sq m (1.6 million sq ft) hospitality hub in Wangfujing, Dongcheng District.

As with its London counterpart, the Beijing pavilion will be a focal point for a range of cultural activities and social events, with the official programme set to be announced in the coming months.

The design – which features a curved cantilever beam evoking the figure of an archer – responds to a brief that called for a “world-class temporary pavilion that takes into consideration both the historical and social context of Beijing and the 18-year history of the Serpentine Pavilion commission.”

According to the architects, inspiration has been derived from Confucianism and the traditional pursuit of Junzi – the model of an ideal person. More practically, the design will allow the structure to withstand fierce winds and unpredictable earthquakes, “with an integral structure that aims, like a Tai Chi master, to conquer the harshness of those forces with softness”.

"Our design incorporates the forces of elasticity through a series of cables stretched between steel plates," explained studio founder Liu Jiakun. "What we ultimately want to present is a spatial installation that goes beyond mere function to push the boundaries of contemporary architectural practice."

A committee of eight selected the design, including Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director, and Yana Peel, CEO, of Serpentine Galleries; architect Sir David Adjaye; artist Wang Jianwei; and Philip Dodd, director of creative agency Made in China.

"WF Central aims to engage, connect and build community through a considered curation of art and cultural creativity and experiential lifestyle," said Raymond Chow, another member of the committee and the executive director of Hongkong Land, which owns WF Central.

"The Serpentine Pavilion Beijing commission represents a unique cultural association. We believe that this marks the beginning of a partnership that has the potential to unfold in various ways and that is founded on a shared passion for architecture and design."

Peel added: "We're delighted at this opportunity to share the architectural creativity and sense of community of our annual London Pavilion experience with new audiences in China."

Initiated in 2000, the Serpentine Pavilion London scheme has showcased the work of internationally recognised architects who had never before completed a UK building. Past collaborators include Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Herzog and de Meuron, Peter Zumthor and Bjarke Ingels. Last summer, the pavilion was designed by Francis Kéré, with his critically acclaimed creation soon to be relocated to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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