The 2016 Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, has found a new life – introducing a dramatic urban development that brings BIG’s radical geometries to Toronto.

The 27-metre-long pavilion, constructed of 1800 lightweight components of fibreglass, has been installed on the site of Westbank King Street, a new building planned for the centre of Toronto that recalls the stack-of-blocks design of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67. The pavilion and the planned building ‘both consist of modular elements that are manipulated into something organic,’ Bjarke Ingels said during a visit to Toronto. ‘In each case, we’re trying to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.’

The pavilion structure is made out of 1800 lightweight fiberglass elements. Photography: Derek Shapton

On September 15, the pavilion opens to the public with UNZIPPED, an exhibition of 10 BIG projects emphasising the architects’ ongoing collaborations with development company Westbank and its founder Ian Gillespie. These include two formally ambitious mixed-use towers, both under construction, and a previously unannounced infrastructure project: a biomass-fuelled power plant, for Vancouver, that will be topped with a large commercial greenhouse. In this work, ‘we try to put the basic elements of the city together in a way that creates a lively and engaging urban environment,’ Ingels says.

The Toronto project – extremely unorthodox in its urban design – certainly pursues that ambition. Set in a block of Victorian industrial buildings, the structure consists of approximately 500 residential units organised into four ‘mountains’, recalling the irregular stacks of Safdie’s famous structure. These rest atop office and retail space and four heritage brick buildings. 

The landscape architecture, by Canadians PUBLIC WORK, includes a central courtyard that will host live performances, and a set of trees and trellis that extend on top of the building’s many small terraces. The goal? To emphasise ‘indoor-outdoor living’, Ingels says, ‘and to create a real sense of community for the residents.’

Gillespie, the developer, echoes that point. ‘Dense urban living is our future,’ he says. ‘We’re exploring how architecture can make it better and more beautiful.’ §

Read more about the afterlife of other Serpentine Pavilions here