Star quality

The 23rd Serpentine Pavilion opened to the public on 7 June 2024.

Titled Archipelagic Void, the 2024 edition of the annual Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens was created by Seoul-based South Korean architect Minsuk Cho and his firm Mass Studies. The star-shaped structure comprises five ‘islands’ - each unique in size, form, name and purpose. 


Tracing the history of past Serpentine Pavilions, Cho observed they often emerge as a singular structure at the centre of the Serpentine South lawn. To explore new possibilities and previously untold spatial narratives, Cho approached the centre as an open space. The 23rd Serpentine Pavilion envisions a unique void surrounded by a constellation of smaller, adaptable structures.


Built predominantly in timber, each of the structures is supported by identical footings that adapt to the slightly sloping topography of the site. The curving edges of the individual roofs are conjoined by a steel ring which forms an oculus in the centre that draws natural light.


Radiating from the circular void, these islands act ‘as nodes in the lawn, reaching out to connect to the Serpentine South gallery and the pedestrian networks in the park,’ explains Serpentine. This layout also references traditional Korean houses that feature a madang, an open courtyard, at the centre. This space connects to various residential quarters, accommodating individual everyday activities and larger collective rituals throughout the changing seasons.


The largest structure is the ‘Auditorium’. With benches built into its inner walls, this space will provide an area for public gathering, performances and talks. To the north is ‘The Library of Unread Books’ by artist Heman Chong and archivist Renée Staal. This ‘living’ reference library is composed of donated unread books to form a pool of common knowledge, addressing notions of access, excess and the politics of distribution.


The southeast ‘Play Tower’ is a pyramid structure fitted with a bright orange netscape for visitors to climb and interact, while ‘The Gallery’ hosts a six-channel audio installation created by musician and composer Jang Young-Gyu which incorporates sounds from nature and human activities recorded in Kensington Gardens, with traditional Korean vocal music and instruments to depict the transition of seasons.


Lastly, the pavilion incorporates ‘The Teahouse’ in a nod to the history of the Serpentine with a café open to the public. Designed by James Grey West, this building originally functioned as a teahouse before reopening as an art gallery in 1970.



Pavilion proud


Kindred spirits


The school of nature