- Zaha Hadid
- tensile fabric over steel
- 5.5 by 22.5 by 22.5m. 18 by 74 by 74in.
- area: 310m² 3300ft²
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Philip Jodidio, Zaha Hadid: Complete Works 1979 - 2013, n.n., illustrated in colour
Philip Jodidio (ed.), Serpentine Gallery Pavilions, Cologne, 2011, pp. I.12 - 19, illustrated in colour
In 2000, Hadid was commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery to design a pavilion for its 30th anniversary gala. The brief was ostensibly simple: an external enclosure to house 400 seated guests. Hadid’s design was a triangulated canopy, whose steel frame delineated various internal spaces spanning 600m², while integrated lights illuminated the structural ribs. The pavilion was both a feat of architecture and of art: one Guardian journalist reviewed the pavilion as: ‘briefly, brilliant’. So popular was the installation that it remained on the lawn well beyond its intended tenure of five days. Hadid’s 2000 pavilion was to become the very first in the Serpentine Gallery’s now renowned series of summer pavilions.
In 2007, Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen were the nominated designers to create the pavilion on the lawn of the Serpentine Gallery for the now-annual institution. However, with the price of British steel soaring, the structure had to be fabricated outside of the UK for the first time in the series history and it became apparent that the installation may miss its deadline. The gallery therefore turned to Hadid to create a pre-pavilion in time for the summer party; she responded with Lilas. Made from white tensile fabric, three structural parasols which are fashioned to evoke floral shapes extend to more than 5m above the ground. During the day, the canopies provide shade, while at night the installation is transformed into a source of light which radiates from the base.
Lilas is a beautiful example of Hadid’s pioneering and imaginative fusion of technology - utilising the height of progress in design and manufacture - with the organic complexity and aesthetic of the natural world. Hadid herself explains: ‘Taking inspiration from complex natural geometries such as flower petals and leaves, the three parasols overlap to create the pavilion’s main conceptual feature: complex symmetry, interweaving all the while without touching, allowing air, light and sound to travel through narrow gaps in a state that is both open and likewise tending towards closure’ (quoted in Philip Jodidio (ed.), Serpentine Gallery Pavilions, Cologne, 2011, p. I.13).
In its complexities, quality and demonstration of boundless vision, Lilas has come to represent the highest standard and ethic of the Serpentine Pavilions. Then-Director of the Serpentine Gallery, Julia Peyton-Jones explains that: ‘…you do the very best you can at the optimum level, and it doesn’t matter if it is for one hour, one night, one day, one year [or] a hundred years, because those people that see it in the period of time […] can have their life changed as a result.’
As well as being an important design for the developing series of Serpentine Gallery pavilions, Lilas is an essential work in the narrative of tensile structures completed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Beginning with Hadid’s first pavilion in 2000 and followed by Lilas in 2007, Zaha Hadid Architects has produced four further tensile structures which demonstrate a continuous line of research and development by the firm. The most recent of these designs is the Mathematics Gallery for London’s Science Museum, due to open to the public in December 2016 and covering a vast area of nearly 1km². The space will play host to an exciting and varied collection of objects which – like the design itself – demonstrate the fruits of technological advances and human inquisitiveness. The largest of these objects will be a 1929 biplane suspended from the ceiling, in which the gallery’s curved surfaces represent the aircraft’s aerodynamic turbulence field.
For nearly 20 years, Patrik Schumacher worked closely with Zaha Hadid as co-author of her most important projects, including the design of her tensile structures of which Lilas is a beautiful example. Their collaborative design effort also produced some of the most imaginative and note-worthy international Contemporary structures to date, including the aquatic centre of the London 2012 Olympics, the Broad Art Museum in America and the Guangzhou Opera House in China. Following Hadid’s untimely death in March this year, Schumacher will continue to grow and direct Zaha Hadid Architects.