The opening of the Serpentine Gallery's architect-designed summer pavilion is one of the most anticipated of London's many design events, and this year's pavilion by Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei and Swiss architecture practice Herzog & de Meuron looks certain not to disappoint.
The 12th commission in an annual programme which invites prominent architects to create a temporary social space on the gallery's lawn, this year's pavilion will be a cork lined underground den whose creation will involve digging up a section of Kensington Gardens. According to visuals released by the gallery this week visitors will sit 1.4m below ground under a disk shaped roof topped with rainwater.
The design, which has seen Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron collaborate for the first time since they designed Beijing's 'bird's nest' stadium pays tribute to the Gallery's 11 previous pavilions with the roof supported by eleven columns representing each past pavilion and a 12 column representing the current structure. The interior of the underground space will be clad in cork, a sustainable building material chosen for its unique qualities and to represent the excavated earth.
Traditionally, each pavilion is sold and the end of the summer with the money raised going towards the cost of construction, but a month before it's due to open this one has already been snapped up by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and his wife for their private collection.