Serpentine Galleries’ Black Chapel pavilion channels light from above

The 2022 Serpentine Pavilion opened on 7 June in London, revealing a ten-metre cylindrical structure standing among the trees of Kensington Gardens, titled Black Chapel.

Created by Chicago artist Theaster Gates with architectural support from Adjaye Associates, it is the first Serpentine Pavilion commission to be awarded to an artist, as an honour usually bestowed upon architects.

The structure was conceived as a space for “gathering, meditation and participation,” the Serpentine Gallery said.

Made from predominantly blackened timber, the design is intended to reference the bottle kilns in Stoke-on-Trent as well as drawing inspiration from religious instalments and traditional African Musgum mud huts of Cameroon.

As the name suggests, Gates designed the space as a spiritual installation and a place for quiet reflection.

Serpentine Pavilion 2022 designed by Theaster Gates.


Iwan Baan

A three-metre opening in the roof of the pavilion creates a transcendent downward play of light from above, producing a holy glow akin to religious structures. “The structure’s central oculus emanates a single source of light to create a sanctuary for reflection, refuge and conviviality,” a spokesperson for the gallery said.

Gates said he was considering light more than potential rain when he conceived the open-air oculus, although a downpour could add another atmospheric and acoustic layer to the drum-shaped pavilion.

Outside stands an operational bronze church bell salvaged from a Catholic Church that once stood in Chicago’s south side. Tolling the bell will announce performances and activities held in the space.

The inspiration for the shape originated from Gates’s work with ceramics and the artist’s ongoing engagement with the concept of “the vessel” is detectable in the form.

The design of the 2022 pavilion was unveiled in February and the pavilion will officially open to the public on 10 July. The Black Chapel has been activated for the summer and will host a program of events and performances before being relocated to a permanent location in autumn.

Previous commissions have included designs by Selgas Cano, Junya Ishigami and Bjarke Ingels Group.

Source: Architecture - architectureau

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