Serpentine Pavilion 2016 — ‘Simple and complex’

Bjarke Ingels's 2016 Serpentine Pavilion©Iwan Baan

Bjarke Ingels’s 2016 Serpentine Pavilion

“Yes is more.” So goes Bjarke Ingels’ motto — a generally sensible subversion of Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist dictum “Less is more”. Ingels is the designer of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, the 17th in what has grow to be a London summer time institution. And it is fairly magical. The 41-year-old Dane has enjoyed a swift rise to the top of his profession, and this folly in the park offers a fairly good indication of why.

The structure is a deceptively easy, single idea that Ingels describes as an “unzipped wall”. But it is also the precise opposite of a wall, a sinuous shelter that is transparent and porous rather than a barrier. The architect jokes that this type of paradox — the capacity to enjoy a thing and its contrary simultaneously — is a favourite trick: he refers to it as “BIGamy”, a pun on the name of his practice, Big.


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Constructed from a series of stacked fibreglass boxes, his pavilion (which was apparently inspired by the ubiquity of the brick wall in London) manages to be both transparent and opaque, a structure that has solid presence and airy ephemerality. Stand in front of a box and appear up and you see appropriate via it, like an empty bookshelf turn your head a little to either side and it becomes a complicated hive, an Op Art stack. From the outdoors, its sculptural type resembles some sort of modernist chapel even inside, the nave-like volume feels surprisingly sacred, with a sort of spiritual depth emerging from Ingels’s simple idea.

Ingels, who is presently designing and building skyscrapers in New York, a plaza at Battersea Energy Station in London, and headquarters for Google in both California and London (alongside designer Thomas Heatherwick), emerged from OMA, Rem Koolhaas’s Rotterdam-primarily based practice. You can see the lineage in Ingels’s wit and potential to connect low and higher culture in an eye-catching notion.

A recent citation from his a single-time employer described him as “the 1st main architect who disconnected the profession fully from angst”. It is a exceptional suggestion, and, I consider, a barbed compliment. Ingels’s lightness of touch, his brilliance at presentation, his comic-book graphics, his legendary parties (his Venice Biennale do this year was aboard a pirate ship) and his potential to be genuinely entertaining when he speaks (painfully uncommon in an architect, even though Koolhaas himself has it too), opens him to accusations of superficiality. They do not look to bother him in the slightest.

Of course, a pavilion in the park is not the web site for angst anyway, so probably this is the wrong venue to commence to dissect one particular of architecture’s fantastic modern success stories. Alternatively we should get pleasure from a lightweight, uplifting and completely engrossing event space that manages to be both massive and intimate, basic and complicated.

This year the main pavilion is supplemented by 4 more summer homes, clustered around the folly that architect William Kent made for Queen Caroline in 1734. Stripped of the require to accommodate talks, coffee and nightlife, these are easier, smaller sized follies that constitute a swan song for departing director Julia Peyton-Jones, who inaugurated the pavilion programme in 2000. As a way of bringing avant-garde architecture to a wide audience for totally free it has been an astonishing good results.

None of the subsidiary designers has constructed something in London ahead of, and they have been given a genuinely cost-free rein. There is a cage of slender white uprights by London-born Asif Khan an engagingly loopy wave of bent plywood (creating benches and providing superb glimpses of sky via teardrop-shaped openings) by German/US practice Barkow Leibinger and an inversion of Queen Caroline’s summerhouse, tipped on its side and created into a luxury seating arrangement complete with niches by Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi.

And there is Yona Friedman’s contribution, so ethereal that it is virtually invisible. Friedman, born in Hungary and now living in Paris, is 1 of architecture’s nearly-forgotten greats. The 93-year-old’s operate has been hugely influential, but he has constructed vanishingly tiny. His Serpentine creation, composed of hoops of steel and conceived as “a museum you can visit from the outside” is a riff on his notion of the “Ville Spatiale”, a city superstructure that could be effortlessly erected and adapted by residents from easy components. This is the briefest amuse-bouche from a visionary oeuvre that has but to obtain its full due.

The Serpentine Pavilion is a lot more about spectacle than it is about architecture but it allows architects to have entertaining — to create an idea into a hypertrophied model with no all the pressure of permanence and efficiency. This year’s pavilion appears a lot more like a pixelated rendering than a model, but the experience is visceral, an icy interior of true beauty. Hardly ever has the description “boxy” been such a compliment.

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Section: Arts

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience, Serpentine Gallery, London — ‘Beauty in ubiquity’

Michael Craig Martin's 'Untitled (Xbox control)' (2014)

Michael Craig Martin’s ‘Untitled (Xbox control)’ (2014)

“When I started drawing these ordinary, daily objects in the late 1970s,” Michael Craig-Martin says, standing in front of a characteristically garishly-coloured series of paintings, “I believed they were fairly stable in the planet. I assumed that they would not adjust over time. When I initial drew a light bulb I had no thought it would turn into a issue of design history.” Now the wiry outline of a light bulb, in vibrant pink, stands outdoors the Serpentine like a ghostly frame for a glimpse of Kensington Palace.

Craig-Martin’s show at the Serpentine, remarkably his 1st in a public gallery in his property city of London because 1989, reveals its theme through its title: Transience. Through his study of the objects that surround us — the factors that are so familiar we have turn out to be practically inured to them — he has revealed how fundamentally every thing has changed. “When I first began,” he says, “it was hammers and shoes. Nowadays, to draw ordinary issues — the factors we use most and are most familiar with — it has to be technological objects.”

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Craig-Martin’s flat, neutral style seems completely suited to the increasingly slick and smooth goods with which we now share our lives. The sharp black outlines, the blocks of colour, the drawings presented as precisely as the exquisitely engineered goods they represent. He began drawing them all from life, by hand — producing them generic via what he saw as a “style-less” graphic approach which, possibly inevitably, itself became an quickly recognisable style. Nowadays, he draws them on a pc, making use of a mouse, the medium they often seemed destined for. Representation and presentation have caught up with his planet — some of these performs would make impeccable ads for the goods they depict.

Michael Craig Martin's 'Untitled (light bulb)' (2014)

Michael Craig Martin’s ‘Untitled (light bulb)’ (2014)

Only two operates in the show function objects that are not in some way powered by electrical energy: a trainer and a carton of french fries. Both are unbranded however instantly recognisable (Adidas and McDonald’s respectively). They illustrate 1 of the most striking aspects of Craig-Martin’s evolving landscape of stuff. Whereas earlier paintings depict generic items — security pins, tools, paintbrushes, cassettes and so on — the new functions are nearly always branded. Even if that branding may possibly be absent from the representation (no logo), by means of their kind alone these are instantly recognisable and ubiquitous merchandise — an Apple iPhone or laptop, those Adidas sneakers or an Xbox controller. Forty years of documentation show how we have moved from the generic to the branded as well as from the relatively cheap to the surprisingly costly, from the hardware store to the Apple store.

This may possibly be a show of photos but it is really — if subtly — just as considerably a show about design. The art, in its deceptive blandness, reveals as a lot about the fabric of our each day lives as the most elaborate 17th-century nonetheless-life with its complex iconography of life, love and death. Craig-Martin may well have begun with a Duchampian eye for the neutrality of the “ready-made”, the located object which represented an unconscious evolution of sensible type as archetype — but now, in relating to the every day, he has been virtually forced to take his personal taste into account.

He comments on the ubiquity and unavoidability of these goods but is also seduced by them, as are we all. He jokes about when having to go out to get a pitchfork to draw (he in no way had a garden) but the iPhone is in his pocket. Alongside these items, photos of an electrical socket, a credit card and credit card reader make this clearly a show about consumption, but 1 made by means of our complicity in the method.

Craig-Martin is searching at the high-tech frames that include, convert and communicate info. The final room is defined by a continuous line drawing of a landscape of stuff, from batteries and bulbs to iPhones and headphones drawn straight on to the wall. Even though we may be absorbed in the screens and the sounds, the artist is nonetheless in a position to uncover beauty in the frame, in the outlines of the ubiquitous objects that surround us.

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Section: Arts