The Serpentine Pavilion by Frida Escobedo: history, aesthetics and functionality

With the Pritzker 2018 Award assigned to Balkrishna Doshi, who we talked about in our previous article, we remain in the world of architecture where another key event is awaited: the inauguration of the Serpentine Pavilion in London, set to take place on 15th June 2018. For 18 straight years now, the Serpentine Gallery – one of the most renowned modern and contemporary art showcases in London – has nominated a world famous architect to design the Serpentine Pavilion, a temporary summer pavilion that is renewed every year at Kensington Gardens, London. So who is the architect designated for the Serpentine Pavilion 2018?

The Serpentine Pavilion 2018 by Frida Escobedo

Mexican, born in 1979, Frida Escobedo is a young, fast-emerging personality on the global architecture scene. Her project is a unique blend of Mexican and British building techniques. Escobedo’s Pavilion will take the form of a traditional Mexican courtyard comprised of two rectangular volumes. These will be enclosed by a breeze wall composed of a lattice of cement roof tiles. This is an interpretation of the celosia – a traditional breeze wall also common to Mexican architecture – which is usually none other than a slab of stone or bronze, embellished with drawings and geometric shapes, used to define reserved spaces inside or outside buildings.

Enhancing the whole will be a slightly curved canopy, clad with mirrored panels, covering a triangular pool. All this creates a beguiling atmosphere, a play of light and shade, geometry and reflection. The pool itself offers further intrigue: it points towards the Greenwich Meridian and as the Sun moves across the sky, the hours are marked by a fascinating alternation of light and shade. In short, Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion blends history, aesthetics and practicality.

The pavilion will be the theatre of a packed events programme dedicated not just to art, design and architecture but also cinema, music and dance. It will also be a great place to take a coffee break. “For the Serpentine Pavilion 2018”, stated Frida Escobedo, “I wanted to create a place where people can contemplate and meet, a structure that works like a clock, marking the passage of time”.

Hans Ulrich Obrist and Yana Peel – Artistic Director and CEO of the Serpentine Gallery – are highly enthusiastic: “The Serpentine Pavilion 2018 by Frida Escobedo promises to be a place of inner reflection and outward encounters. It’s a bold project that offers a fresh take on traditional public spaces”.

Who is Frida Escobedo, the enfant prodige of modern architecture?

Born in Mexico City, Frida Escobedo opened her own architectural studio at the age of just 27. She made an impact in the architecture community with projects designed to “reactivate” abandoned or decaying urban areas through minimalist yet extremely effective intervention. The Librería del Fondo Octavio Paz in Mexico City and the La Tallera Siqueiros gallery in Cuernavaca, Mexico (see following photo) offer two stunning examples. 
The latter was presented at the 13th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012, projecting the Mexican architect to the forefront of the European scene.

foto di Frida escobedo Talleras di David Alfaro Siqueiros a Cuernavaca, Messico

After a series of exhibitions in the world’s major cities – such as the exhibition at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale in 2012 and 2013 and the creation of a pavilion at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2015 – Frida Escobedo received some of the most important awards in architecture: the Young Architects Forum, the Ibero-American Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism Prize 2014, the Emerging Architecture Award of the Architectural Review in 2016 and the Emerging Voices Award in the USA, received in 2017 from the Architectural League of New York. With the Serpentine Pavilion 2018, Frida Escobedo has achieved the umpteenth success of her career and become the youngest architect and only the second woman – after archistar Zaha Hadid – to be asked to design the pavilion. Will she succeed in going on to become the first woman to take the Pritzker Award?

The Serpentine Pavilion: who designed it in past years?

The Serpentine Pavilion 2017, designed by the African architect Diabedo Francis Kerè, was a huge success. It is shown in the following 2 photos.

foto francis-kere-serpentine-pavilion  foto francis-kere-serpentine-pavilion 2

There follows a list of the Serpentine Pavilion architects from 2000 onwards:

  • 2000: Zaha Hadid

foto Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2000-by-Zaha-Hadid 2 foto Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2000-by-Zaha-Hadid

  • 2001: Daniel Libeskind with Cecil Balmond
  • 2002: Toyo Ito with Cecil Balmond
  • 2003: Oscar Niemeyer

foto Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2003-Oscar-Niemeyer foto Serpentine-Gallery-Pavilion-2003-Oscar-Niemeyer 2

  • 2005: Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Cecil Balmond
  • 2006: Rem Koolhaas with Cecil Balmond and Arup
  • 2007: pre-pavilion ‘Lilias’: Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher
  • 2007: Olafur Eliasson, Cecil Balmond, and Kjetil Thorsen
  • 2008: Frank Gehry (leggi l’articolo su Frank Gehry qui)
  • 2009: SANAA
  • 2010: Jean Nouvel

foto Serpentine-Gallery-2010-Jean-Nouvel foto Serpentine-Gallery-2010-Jean-Nouvel 2

  • 2011: Peter Zumthor with Piet Oudolf
  • 2012: Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron
  • 2013: Sou Fujimoto

  • 2014: Smiljan Radic
  • 2015: Selgas Cano
  • 2016: Bjarke Ingels
  • 2017: Diébédo Francis Kéré

Prestigious names, then, which underscore the importance of this event! The inauguration will take place on 15th June 2018. Curious to see how Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion 2018 will look?

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2018 Pritzker Prize goes to Balkrishna Doshi, Indian architect of the Le Corbusier school

The 2018 Pritzker Prize has been awarded to Balkrishna Doshi, the first Indian architect to receive this highly prestigious accolade in the world of architecture.

The nomination of Balkrishna Doshi, who will officially receive the award on 16 May 2018 in the splendid setting of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, proved to be unexpected and comes in what will be a particularly important edition for the Pritzker Prize – the fortieth. In “contention” with Doshi for the 2018 Pritzker Prize were, among others, his compatriot Bijoy Jain, Steven Holl, Diébedo Francis Kéré (architect of the Serpentine Pavilion 2017), the young Bjarke Ingels, as well as David Chipperfield, recognised by many as a starchitect who, up to now, has never managed to win this prize.

For the third consecutive year, the choice for the award has surprised everyone: in 2017, the Catalan firm RCR Arquitects unexpectedly triumphed, while in 2016, the prize went to Alejandro Aravena, one of the youngest architects to be honoured with this accolade.

Architecture that is “serious and never flashy”: the reasons given by the Pritzker jury

Doshi, born in 1927, wins the Pritzker Prize at the venerable age of 90 years, after a very long career in which he has guided the reconstruction of his country – India – since his youth, defining its architectural identity.

foto di balkrishna doshi pritzker prize 2018

The jury, chaired by Glenn Murcutt (Pritzker 2002), with Stephen Breyer, André Corrêa do Lago, Lord Palumbo, Richard Rogers (Pritzker 2007), Wang Shu (Pritzker 2012), Benedetta Tagliabue, Ratan N. Tata and, from this year, Kazuyo Sejima (Pritzker 2010), gave the following reasons for its choice:

“Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi has continually exhibited the objectives of the Pritzker Architecture Prize to the highest degree. He has been practising the art of architecture, demonstrating substantial contributions to humanity, for over 60 years. By granting him the award this year, the Pritzker Prize jury recognises

his exceptional architecture as reflected in over a hundred buildings he has realised,

his commitment and his dedication to his country and the communities he has served,

his influence as a teacher

and the outstanding example he has set for professionals and students around the world throughout his long career.

Doshi has worked with two masters of the 20th century: Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. Without doubt, Doshi’s early works were influenced by these architects, as can be seen in the robust forms of concrete he employed. However, Doshi took the language of his buildings beyond these early models. With an understanding and appreciation of the deep traditions of India’s architecture, he united prefabrication and local craft and developed a vocabulary in harmony with the history, culture, local traditions and the changing times of his home country India.

Over the years, Balkrishna Doshi has always created an architecture that is serious, never flashy or a follower of trends. With a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people through high-quality, authentic architecture, he has created projects for public administrations and utilities, educational and cultural institutions, and residences for private clients. (…)

Balkrishna Doshi demonstrates that all good architecture and urban planning must not only unite purpose and structure but must take into account climate, location, technique and craft, along with a deep understanding and appreciation of the context in the broadest sense. Projects must go beyond the functional to connect with the human spirit through poetic and philosophical underpinnings.

For his numerous contributions as an architect, urban planner, teacher, and his steadfast example of integrity and tireless contributions to India and world, the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury awarded Balkrishna Doshi as the 2018 Laureate.”

Balkrishna Doshi, profile

Balkrishna Doshi was born in 1927, in Pune, India’s fourth largest industrial city, about 150 km south-east of Mumbai. He studied at the Sir J.J. School of Architecture Bombay – regarded as one of the best schools of architecture in the Indian subcontinent – before moving to Europe, London at first and then Paris, where he worked for several years alongside Le Corbusier, who was a fundamental figure and mentor for Doshi during his entire career as an architect.

He returned to India in 1954, where he opened his own architectural firm and supervised the creation of various buildings in different parts of the country. His ten-year collaboration with Louis Kahn, the American architect of Jewish origins, was also important.

Balkrishna Doshi works and buildings realised

As mentioned above, Doshi is considered a pioneer of low-cost residential complexes, characterised by various types of construction that combine aesthetics, the concept of communal living and functionality.

Here are some buildings that best represent his work

Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad (1962)

The Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad was one of Doshi’s first projects (1962). The influence of Le Corbusieur can be clearly seen, as well as strong “brutalist” analogies with projects built in the same historical period in Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Foto institute of indology doshi 1962

Life Insurance Corporation Housing in Ahmedabad (1973)

This is one of the works Doshi cared about most: in the early 1970s, the architect designed a housing complex that could be occupied by the same family for several generations. The project included a series of terraces at the top of the buildings which, when necessary, could be converted into new residential units. Each house could be extended by the family to create new adjacent dwellings, in order to preserve family unity.

foto Life Insurance Corporation Housing-Ahmedabad Doshi

Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore

The Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore is a public Business School of national importance located in the Indian state of Karnataka. Founded in 1973, it was the third IIM to be established, after IIM Calcutta and IIM Ahmedabad.

Doshi designed the campus, known for its unique all-stone architecture and lush landscaped surroundings, and the “Academic Blocks”, which contain lecture halls, offices, recreational spaces and were recently extended to meet the increase in students.

foto IIM Bangalore Balkrishna Doshi

Aranya Low Cost Housing in Indore (1989)

1989 saw the completion of the Aranya Low Cost Housing complex in Indore, for which Doshi received the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) in 1993. The complex is a series of residences housing 80,000 people through a system of houses, courtyards and a labyrinth of internal pathways. The community that lives in the Aranya Low Cost Housing complex in Indore is composed of over 6,500 residences, divided into six sectors, each offering a range of housing options, some of modest proportions (one-room units) and others that are larger and more spacious.

foto Aranya Low Cost Housing Doshi

Amdavad ni Gufa (1995)

Amdavad ni Gufa is an underground art gallery in Ahmedabad, India, which exhibits works by the Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain. The gallery represents a unique juxtaposition of architecture and art. The cave-like underground structure has a roof made of multiple interconnected domes, covered with a mosaic of tiles. On the inside, irregular tree-like columns support the domes.

foto Amdavad ni Gufa Doshi

Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad (1966-2012)

A truly unique structure set within an enormous landscaped area. Designed to allow for a variety of student activities, Doshi’s work includes spaces for study, relaxation and sport. The most characteristic part of the structure is the open space on the ground floor, while the upper floors consist of double-height study spaces, with windows facing north to protect them from the harsh sunlight from the east.

foto CEPT - Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology Doshi Ahmedabad

“Every object around us, and nature itself—lights, sky, water and storm—everything is in a symphony,” explains Doshi. “And this symphony is what architecture is all about. My work is the story of my life, continuously evolving, changing and searching… searching to take away the role of architecture, and look only at life.”

Here is the video of the announcement released by Pritzker

What is the Pritzker Prize?

The Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded each year to honour a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

The international prize -awarded each year to a living architect for significant achievement- was established by the Pritzker family of Chicago through their Hyatt Foundation in 1979. It is granted annually and is often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel” and “the profession’s highest honour”.

The award consists of $100,000 (US) and a bronze medallion. The award is conferred on the laureate at a ceremony held at an architecturally significant site throughout the world.

The very first winner of the Pritzker Prize was Philip Johnson, in 1979. Zaha Hadid was the first and only woman to win the prize (2004). In 2010, the Pritzker Prize was awarded to the Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa, the youngest prize winner to date. Italian winners include Aldo Rossi (1990) and Renzo Piano (1998).

The 2018 Pritzker Prize is quite unprecedented, confirming the fact that modern architecture must take into account not only the functionality of a project, but also connect with the human spirit through poetic and philosophical underpinnings, as Doshi has shown throughout his career.

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