Serpentine Invites Exchanges through its Pavilion Design

Serpentine opens its 22nd Pavilion designed by French-Lebanese Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh, at Serpentine South on June 9, 2023, with Goldman Sachs supporting the annual project for the 9th consecutive year.

Inspired by the architect’s Mediterranean heritage and fervent discussions around the table over current affairs, politics, personal lives, and dreams, the 22nd  Serpentine Pavilion is titled À table – a French call to sit down together at a table to engage and participate in dialogue while sharing a meal. As such, the interior of the Pavilion features a concentric table along the perimeter, inviting us to convene, sit down, think, share, and celebrate exchanges that enable new relationships to form.

Considering food as an expression of care, the Pavilion’s design is a space for grounding and reflection on our relationship to land, nature, and the environment. By offering a moment of conviviality around a table, Ghotmeh welcomes visitors to share ideas, concerns, joys, dissatisfactions, responsibilities, traditions, cultural memories, and histories that bring us together.

Built predominantly from bio-sourced and low-carbon materials, the Serpentine Pavilion 2023 continues Ghotmeh’s focus on sustainability and designing spaces that are conceived in dialogue with the natural environment that surrounds them. The design of the space responds to the shape of the surrounding tree canopies, the internal wooden beams that encircle the perimeter of the Pavilion emerge as thin tree trunks. The fretwork panels that sit between the beams feature plant-like cut-out patterns, allowing natural light and ventilation. The Pavilion’s pleated roof is inspired by a structure of a palm leaf and the lightwell in the middle furthers the space’s integration with its environment. The structure’s modest low roof takes inspiration from togunas: structures found in Mali, West Africa, which are traditionally used for community gatherings to discuss current issues, but also to offer shade and relief from the heat. The low-lying roofs of these structures encourage people to remain seated peacefully and pause throughout discussions.

The predominantly timber structure will be lightweight and fully demountable, with a focus on sustainably sourced materials and the reusability of the structure after its time installed at Serpentine.

In a new collaboration with The Conran Shop, Ghotmeh has designed two new exclusive pieces of furniture for this year’s Pavilion. Celebrating nature and conviviality, the tables and stools dress the interior of the structure. Crafted from oak, with a dark-red finish, the 25 tables and 57 stools come together to complete a ceremonial display inside the Pavilion.

Honouring the history of the Serpentine building as a former teahouse, Ghotmeh will contribute a new menu based on organic ingredients in collaboration with Benugo. The menu will be available at the Pavilion throughout the summer months.

An accompanying catalogue, designed by Paris-based studio Les Graphiquants, will feature contributions by Ali Cherri, Beatriz Colomina, Bernard Comment, Fouad Elkoury, Simone Fattal and David Zilber. It will also include a comprehensive conversation between Hans Ulrich Obrist and Lina Ghotmeh. The book will be co-published by Serpentine and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Köln, and will be available from August 2023.

A new soundscape for the Pavilion Dawn chorus has been created by artist and composer Tarek Atoui, based on Lina Ghotmeh’s sketches, architectural materials, and Atoui’s ongoing research on classical and rural Arab music. It can be accessed on the Bloomberg Connects app, together with the architect’s audio introduction to the project and other material.

Ghotmeh, Architect said: “There is such enthusiasm as the Pavilion’s opening draws near and an occasion to provide a space for people to simply enjoy, stroll, and meet while discussing the difficulties of today to spur the necessary change. The Pavilion rises as a wooden structure in keeping with the natural surroundings, inviting us to sit around exquisitely crafted stools and tables and take in the surroundings. Collaborating with The Conran Shop to create the tables and chairs I envisaged for the Pavilion, has been fantastic on this occasion. The Pavilion serves as a place of meeting, togetherness, conviviality, and joy, and the furniture serves as its focal point.”

“The Pavilion is as a place of meeting, togetherness, conviviality, and joy, and the furniture serves as its focal point,’ says Lina Ghotmeh.

Bettina Korek, Chief Executive, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, said: “We are honoured to unveil Lina Ghotmeh’s first structure in the UK. À table continues Serpentine’s mission of building new connections between artists, architects, and society.

Drawing on natural elements that reflect local surroundings, Ghotmeh’s design promotes unity and conviviality in its form and function.

Water colour sketch by Lina Ghotmeh.

All Images Courtesy Serpentine Galleries; Iwan Baan.