Ai, who was detained for almost three months in China last year, created the pavilion in Hyde Park with architects Herzog & de Meuron, who worked with him on the 2008 Beijing National Stadium, (“the Bird’s Nest.”) The temporary structure has been purchased by billionaire Lakshmi Mittal -- chairman of the world’s biggest steelmaker ArcelorMittal -- for his collection.
Twelfth of its kind, the 2012 pavilion is a circular, cork- lined lounge sunken into the Serpentine lawn, with steps and bleachers carved into it, and stools shaped like champagne corks scattered everywhere. A water-filled circular roof rises like a floating basin 1.4 meters (4 feet) above the lawn, supported by 12 columns of varying shapes that represent the 12 pavilions.
“From the beginning, we were on the same track: not doing another object on top of the lawn,” said co-designer Pierre de Meuron in an interview inside the pavilion. “What can you do after 12 years?”
“We are in a beautiful park, and you don’t want here an object that’s crying, ’Look, I’m the pavilion of 2012,’” he said.
Earlier, during the press presentation, Ai -- who is banned from travel outside China -- sent a videoed message.
“We tried to study what happened before, and we also asked (ourselves) why we need to do a new design for this event,” said the bearded Ai, wearing a baggy light-blue shirt. “We are focused on the memory and the past and what has happened.”
Every year since 2000, the directors of Serpentine, a former tearoom, ask an architect or artist to put up a provisional building for its summer fundraising party, as well as for visitor use and day and evening talks and events.
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