Inspired by Ghotmeh’s Mediterranean heritage and lively discussions around the table over current affairs, politics, personal lives, and dreams, the Pavilion is titled À table – a French call to sit together at the table to share a meal and enter into dialogue. As such, the interior of the Pavilion features a circular table along the perimeter, inviting us to convene and celebrate exchanges that enable new relationships to form. Considering food as an expression of care and offering a moment of conviviality around a table, Ghotmeh welcomes us to share the ideas, concerns, joys, dissatisfactions, responsibilities, traditions, cultural memories, and histories that bring us together.
Ghotmeh defines her approach to architecture as an ‘Archaeology of the Future’. Built predominantly from bio-sourced and low-carbon materials, the Serpentine Pavilion 2023 continues her focus on sustainability and designing spaces that are conceived in dialogue with the history and natural environment that surrounds them. The form of the Pavilion responds to the shape of the park’s tree canopies. Internal wooden beams that encircle the perimeter of the structure emerge as thin tree trunks and the fretwork panels that sit between the beams feature plant-like cut out patterns, aiding ventilation and allowing natural light to come in. The Pavilion’s pleated roof is inspired by the structure of a palm leaf, while the lightwell in the middle furthers the space’s integration with its setting. The modest, low roof takes inspiration from togunas: structures found in Mali, West Africa, that are traditionally used for community gatherings to discuss current issues, and also offer shade and relief from heat. The low-lying roofs of these structures encourage people to remain seated peacefully and take pause throughout discussions.
In this design, Ghotmeh also honours the history of the Serpentine South building, which was originally a teahouse. Designed by James Grey West, the building opened in 1934 and was converted into an art gallery in 1970. In the summer months until the early 1960s, the café’s seating area also expanded to the lawn, which the Pavilion now occupies. Inspired by this history, Ghotmeh incorporated the Pavilion’s café menu into her design process, offering Mediterranean-inspired dishes made with local and seasonal ingredients.
A new soundscape for the Pavilion has been created by artist and composer Tarek Atoui, based on Lina Ghotmeh’s sketches, architectural materials and Atoui’s ongoing research on classical and rural Arab music. You can listen to ‘Dawn chorus’ by Jad and Tarek Atoui, featuring Berber chants by the choir of Othman Azolid (Ouarzazat, Morocco), on Serpentine’s guide on Bloomberg Connects.