Three years after getting the nod from The Royal Parks, the Serpentine will finally open its new Serpentine Sackler Gallery this Saturday, a Grade II*-listed building located a stone's throw from the original gallery in Hyde Park.
Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid has transformed the interior of the Magazine building - a 200-year-old former gunpowder store - and added a curvaceous new extension as a contemporary counterpoint. The new space will bring some 900 sq m to the gallery's footprint, and will house the Magazine restaurant along with an exhibition space and function rooms.
Hadid rendered her classic curves in a soft and gentle fashion for the new annex in order to respect the neo-classical original. 'We wanted to use a new materiality,' says the architect, who opted for a PTFE coated, glass-fibre woven fabric membrane for the exterior skin. 'It looks temporary but is actually attached to the [existing] building in a really light way.'
The gallery has a long-held relationship with the UK-based architect, who designed the first of its annual summer Serpentine Gallery Pavilions in 2000. 'We wanted to work with her again for many reasons - primarily because she has no realised [permanent] buildings in Central London and she is one of the most distinguished architects working today,' says Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones. 'She married the old and the new extraordinarily.'
Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of exhibitions and programmes, adds: 'The German art historian Erwin Panofsky said that we invent the future out of fragments of the past, and that is exactly what is happening here.'
The existing structure's careful restoration was spearheaded by the Serpentine and Hadid, in partnership with The Royal Parks, while the landscaping around it was created by landscape designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
The new and existing galleries will work together to host a programme of art exhibitions - the first of which is a solo show of the work of Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas, who creates monumental pieces in concrete, wood, steel and clay. 'Adrian wanted to develop a project where he really embraces the building's contradictions, the old and the new, the future and the past, the different traditions of the building,' says Jochen Volz, head of programmes at the gallery. Meanwhile, the original Serpentine building will be hosting the first solo exhibition in a UK public institution of Italian artist Marisa Merz.
This new addition to Hyde Park is named after Dr Mortimer and Dame Theresa Sackler, whose foundation supported the project with the largest single gift received by the Gallery in its 43-year history.