Frida Escobedo is the first solo woman since Zaha Hadid to design a Serpentine Pavilion
Frida Escobedo has been added to the list of esteemed Serpentine Pavilion allum. Following in the blueprints of Francis Kéré last year, and BIG in 2016, the Mexican architect will be the first solo woman to take on the challenge since the late Zaha Hadid in 2000.
Selected by Serpentine artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO Yana Peel, with help from advisors David Adjaye and Richard Rogers, Escobedo is also the youngest architect to be chosen for the project in its 18-year history. Born in 1979 in Mexico City, Escobedo established a studio in her home town 12 years ago. She has become known for her championing of Mexican design inspirations and practices, something she intends to convey in her Serpentine Pavilion commission, which features a courtyard enclosed by dark latticed walls, intended as a play on the celosia – a common trope in Mexican architecture that allows breeze to flow through buildings.
In what the architect describes as ‘a meeting of material and historical inspirations’, the courtyard design will also be site-specific to London. Along with positioning the interior wall of the courtyard along the Greenwich Meridian line (a summation of the British timezone, established in 1851), Escobedo will also use a palate of British materials (namely cement and wood), chosen for their atmospheric, dark qualities.
Widely acknowledged as one of the more challenging briefs in architecture thanks to its short six-month time frame, and the Pavilion’s multi-function as both performance area, object of art and public installation, Yana Peel believes Escobedo has hit the nail on the head. ‘It promises to be a place of both deep reflection and dynamic encounter’, she says, hoping it will bring ‘the urgency of art and architecture to the widest audiences.’
The commission follows a string of international successes for Escobedo. She impressed last year at the Chicago Architecture Bienniale, with her multi-levelled gathering place that overhauled a reading room of the old Chicago Convention Centre library, and for giving the former studio and home of Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros a new lease of life in 2012. Her eclectic oeuvre also includes interior architecture for Aesop, and a commission for the V&A Museum in London. This new, highly public commission – a meeting of timezones, functions and cultures – promises to share Escobedo’s work with a larger audience, offering her practice more of the widespread recognition it deserves.