Mr Nouvel's pavilion features table tennis tables, an auditorium and a 12m wall tilting over the space at a gravity-defying angle
A superstar architect whom the Prince of Wales tried to remove from a £500 million development next to St Paul’s Cathedral will complete his first British project in Hyde Park this summer.
Jean Nouvel, one of the most decorated and unpredictable architects in the world, has designed an extraordinary scarlet pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery featuring table tennis tables, an auditorium and a 12m wall tilting over the space at a gravity-defying angle.
It will be the tenth such summer pavilion for the gallery, the latest and brashest installment in what has become a highlight of the art and architecture year.
Julia Peyton-Jones, the director of the Serpentine, said that the scheme offered an unmatched level of democratic engagement with the world’s most important architects, which is why it typically pulls in around 250,000 visitors a year, twice as many as the Venice Architecture Biennale.
“The public own the structure as soon as they can get into it. They can move the furniture, have picnics in the pavilion or play games in it. They can engage with the work of architects who will be in the cannon in a hands on way that would never be possible anywhere else in the world.”
The gallery has no budget for the pavilions, which are turned around in six months from invitation to completion.
Usually sponsorship, sponsorship in kind and the sale of the structure at the end of its lifetime fund the project, although this year the Serpentine is receiving help from Arts Council England’s Sustain fund, designed to help organisations to maintain artistic excellence during economic downturns.
Zaha Hadid was the first to accept the challenge and the parade of international architects who have followed her includes Daniel Libeskind, Oscar Niemeyer, Rem Koolhaas, Olafur Eliasson and Frank Gehry.
Last year’s commission was a swooping, delicate aluminium structure by the Japanese architects SANAA, which was praised for its lightness of touch and reflective qualities.
Mr Nouvel will offer something different. The 64-year-old Frenchman has a reputation for eccentricity in both his habits (he dresses only in black in winter and only in white in summer) and his buildings.