Junya Ishigama’s elemental 2019 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion


Iwan Baan

Rising from the lawns of the Serpentine Gallery like the scaly flanks of a recumbent dragon, Junya Ishigami’s contribution to the 19-year-old summer pavilion programme is a reinterpretation of the humble roofing slate – a material characteristic of domestic architecture in London, and many cities beyond, but which is here reconnected with its natural origins. “My design for the pavilion plays with our perspectives of the built environment against the backdrop of a natural landscape”, says Ishigami, “emphasising a natural and organic feel as though it had grown out of the lawn, resembling a hill made out of rocks”.


Supported on spindly steel columns, the loose-laid stone forms a curving shell beneath which is a cave-like space that Ishigami hopes will be a space for contemplation – and will also, in line with the gallery’s long-established brief, accommodate a bar and a diverse programme of talks and events that runs throughout the summer.

“Possessing the weight presence of slate roofs, and simultaneously appearing so light it could blow away in the breeze, the cluster of scattered rock levitates, like a billowing piece of fabric”, says Ishigami.


The pavilion develops themes of structural lightness and the integration of built and natural elements that has typified much of 45-year-old Ishigami’s work. His major projects include the ethereal Kanagawa Institute of Technology Workshop (2007) and a structure built from slender carbon fibre rods and fishing line for the 2010 Venice Biennale, which fell victim to a stray cat, but as with previous participants in the pavilion programme, he has not built in the UK until now. The Serpentine Gallery’s early commissions went to established architectural stars, while in recent years the focus has turned to presenting emerging figures, and the geographic net has also been cast wider. Recent examples include Francis Kéré in 2017 and Frida Escobedo in 2018.

Junya Ishigami (ph: Tasuko Amada)

Alongside this year’s Pavilion, the gallery has launched Serpentine Augmented Architecture, with Google Arts and Culture. The project, supported by David Adjaye, extended a call for submissions of unrealised projects that look at ways in which Augmented Reality could transform social, spatial and structural experiences of the city. The selected project, on display from 12 July, is Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s ‘The Deep Listener’, an augmented reality installation that immerses visitors within the complex ecosystems that circulate around the Serpentine Galleries park setting.


‘2019 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion’
21 June – 6 October 2019
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA
Programme details: serpentinegalleries.org

Works by Junya Ishigami

Serpentine Gallery Pavilions


Junya Ishigami
Technical consultant
David Glover
Technical advisor
Stage One
Major sponsors
Gikdman Sachs, Weil, Gallowglass
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Jana Peel