Serpentine Pavilion commission extended for the first time

Counterspace's anticipated Serpentine Pavillion design will now debut in summer 2021

Serpentine Pavilion design render, interior view counterspace
Serpentine Pavilion 2020 designed by Counterspace, design render, interior view.
(Image credit: © Counterspace)

In an innovative and practical response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Serpentine Pavilion designed by Johannesburg-based practice Counterspace has been extended into a two-year commission. This is the first time since the annual architecture programme was founded 20 years ago that such a move has been made. Instead, commission recipients – directed by architects Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers and Amina Kaskar – will use the additional time to collaborate with the Serpentine on a series of off-site and digital research projects throughout 2020, culminating in the opening of the Pavilion in summer 2021.

Sir David Adjaye OBE, who is a Serpentine Galleries trustee and the Serpentine Pavilion advisor, said: ‘Rather than rush to execute Counterspace’s stellar design as soon as it is safe to do so, the Serpentine has accepted the slowness reshaping society today and utilised it to develop a deeper relationship with the architects’. He adds: ‘While the circumstances that have prompted this evolution are by no means easy, we believe it is an important opportunity for this Pavilion to stand as a bridge of sorts between either sides of this unfathomably significant time in history.'

Lead architect Vally also welcomes the decision. ‘We've always relied on places of gathering to come together and we miss them when they're gone. Covid-19 has brought the Pavilion themes of community and gathering sharply into focus – allowing us the opportunity to extend and deepen our engagement process over two years.'

Serpentine Pavilion 2020 designed by Counterspace. Design Render, Exterior View © Counterspace

Though specific details of the digital and off-site programming have not yet been announced, Vally hints at what to expect from the extended collaboration. ‘We are excited to launch a set of initiatives that will redefine and celebrate the role of gathering and the construction and preservation of belonging in times of crisis – reversing the original procession, so that a cascade of dialogues, events, programmes and fragments of the Pavilion will pop-up incrementally in real and digital space over the course of 2020 coming together in 2021 in Kensington Gardens to form Pavilion 20 plus 1.'

The well-timed response comes as cultural organisations around the world are adapting to the new normal. Wallpaper* has commissioned a series of longform articles from our network of international editors, who offer insight to how the cultural community in their territory is responding, with positivity and hope. You can read the World View series here.

Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.