Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery has debuted in London. The curved brick building, located across the river from the main gallery, comprises two parts: the conversion of an 1805 gunpowder store known as the Magazine that accommodates the gallery, and a tensile extension housing a restaurant, social spaces, and offices.
Envisioning the project as a freestanding pavilion within an enclosure, the architectural team removed all non-historic partition walls and covered former courtyards to become internal exhibition spaces. Skylights, which surround the pre-existing central vaults, supply natural light; retractable blinds allow for a complete black-out of the galleries when necessary.
For the curvilinear extension, a glass fiber woven textile membrane forms a significant part of the building’s load bearing. In lieu of perimeter columns, the designers used a twisted ladder truss supported on three points, while a linear strip of glazing gives the appearance that the roof is hovering above the Magazine without touching it. Completing the envelope is a curved, frameless glass wall that cantilevers from the ground to reach the roof’s edge. Inside, seating is arranged as a continuous Voronoi pattern, reminiscent of organic cell structures and contributing to the structure’s sculptural fluidity.
“Our aim is to create an intense aesthetic experience, an atmosphere that seems to oscillate between being an extension of the delightful beauty of the surrounding nature and of being an alluring invitation into the enigma of contemporary art,” the architects noted in their design statement.
Photography by Luke Hayes