Lebanese-born, Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh will design the 2023 Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens. The architect’s design, titled À table, is informed by her relationship with nature and the past. It will comprise a low-lying circular structure with tables and benches where the public can congregate and interact with one another and with nature.
“À table is an invitation to dwell together, in the same space and around the same table. It is an encouragement to enter into a dialogue, to convene and to think about how we could reinstate and re-establish our relationship to nature and the Earth,” Ghotmeh said in a press statement.
The pavilion commission, in its 22nd year, annually taps an architect or artist to design a temporary structure activated by the Serpentine Gallery’s programming in the summer months. Ghotmeh’s practice, Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture, has worked on a number cultural and residential projects focused on the environment, place, and materiality, in her home country of Lebanon, across France, and at global exhibitions including the Venice Architecture Biennale.
“As a Mediterranean woman, born and raised in Beirut, and living in Paris, I feel a deep belonging to our ground, to what it contains, and to what it embraces: from the buried yet weathering archaeologies of past civilisations to the embedded living world that spurs green life to sprout from every crack in the streets,” Ghotmeh described. “In my practice as an architect, I excavate to design (and learn) from the traces of the past and I listen to the voices of my ancestors as well as those of our living world. These voices vividly resonate with future structures as ways to influence and challenge tomorrow’s architecture.”
The pavilion will be constructed using low-carbon, sustainable materials, notably timber. Its shape and materiality take cues from the Toguna huts of the Dogon people in Mali, in addition to the surrounding park landscape, mirrored in the form of its “pleated” roof and its natural coloration.
Inside, a series of benches and tables will be installed around the perimeter, leaving an open space at the center of the room. It is conceived as a place for gathering, where the public can congregate to share a meal, engage in conservation, and respond to the company of others.
“[Ghotmeh’s] design for À table draws on natural elements that reflect its surroundings in Kensington Gardens and expands on our mission of creating connections between architecture and society by promoting unity and togetherness in its form and function,” said Serpentine Chief Executive Bettina Korek and Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist. “Placing nature, the organic and sustainability at its core, Ghotmeh’s Pavilion will be designed to minimise its carbon footprint and environmental impact, in line with Serpentine’s sustainability policy.”
Similar to previous commissions the pavilion is demountable and can be taken apart and reconstructed at a different site.
À table follows the installation of Black Chapel, a design headed by Chicago artist Theaster Gates. While Ai Weiwei had previously completed a pavilion with Herzog & de Meuron in 2012, Gates was the first non-architect to receive the full commission. (His work was realized with support from Adjaye Associates). Past commissions include some of the best contemporary architects: Zaha Hadid (2000), Oscar Niemeyer (2003), Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura (2005), and 2022 Pritzker Prize laureate Francis Kéré (2017), among the other recipients. In recent years, the pavilion has also been awarded to architects in the early stages of their practice, notably Frida Escobedo (2018) and Counterspace, led by Sumayya Vally (2021).
As in past years, once realized, the 2023 Serpentine pavilion will host a number of cultural events put on by the nearby Serpentine Gallery, including live music, poetry readings, and performances, in addition to education and civic programming. This year’s selection committee included Ulrich Obrist and Korek with Director of Construction and Special Projects Julie Burnell, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Public Practice Yesomi Umolu, Curator at Large Natalia Grabowska, and architect David Adjaye in an advisory role. For the ninth consecutive year, support for the project will come from Goldman Sachs.
AN will circle back in June when the pavilion’s construction is complete.