It is great to see Julia Peyton-Jones honoured with an OBE. Her efforts as director of London’s Serpentine Gallery have done much more than promote art – interesting though that art is. She’s also done great things for design, coming leftfield from the bijou building in Kensington Gardens to put world class architecture in the public eye each year and to stimulate debate about the creative industries in general.
I am talking of the Serpentine Gallery’s summer pavilions, temporary structures created each year in the gallery’s grounds providing a cafÃ© and a venue for parties, debates and the like, often tending towards a design and architecture theme.
So far we’ve seen one of the few UK projects by architect Zaha Hadid, a fantastic structure by German architect Daniel Libeskind that must have helped his case for the controversial Victoria & Albert Museum Spiral extension, and a stunning lightweight structure by Japanese architect Toyo Ito with Ove Arup engineer Cecil Balmond. Libeskind, meanwhile, created a customised Piaggio scooter for his pavilion, as did fashion guru Emanuel Ungaro.
This year we have an adventurous design by Brazilian superstar Oscar Niemeyer. Executed with help from Din Associates, among others, and opening tomorrow, it has a basement level excavated into the grassy site.
Are we veering towards permanence here? Possibly, though the ‘permission’ is for a temporary scheme. But the joy of the Serpentine pavilions – and the strength of the patronage – is keeping it varied. People not only get to experience a different space each year, they can also observe the intriguing process of constructing these wondrous structures in the run-up to the opening.
All credit to Peyton-Jones and her team for giving us the opportunity and for setting an example for other galleries and museums to follow. Congratulations, Julia.
Know your rights
There will be a little less to celebrate at the Business Design Centre next month with its decision not to accept copyright activist Acid as an exhibitor at the New Designers student shows. Acid performs an extremely useful function within design, encouraging designers to know and protect their rights as well as persuading retailers and other clients to respect them.
Whatever the BDC’s reasons for excluding Acid this year, it’s a shame the youthful exhibitors won’t be able to discuss the issues with Acid first hand as they make their debut in the public arena. We urge tutors and students to seek advice and protect their rights ahead of any shows, to avoid any exploitation that might come of giving designs a public airing.