Life After Serpentine: Where Zaha Hadid’s, Ai Weiwei’s, and Frank Gehry’s Pavilions Go When the Party’s Over

Five months ago, Kensington Gardens welcomed the half-buried, cork-clad, Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei-designed 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion onto its grounds. Not long from now, as the scooped-out earth is going to be refilled, and steel magnate Lakshmi N. Mittal packs up the pavilion to relocate it, not doubt, to one of his many estates, there’s going to be no signs that it was ever there.

Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond’s 2002 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is now a hip beachside hang out on the coast of St. Tropez

Each year the Serpentine Gallery commissions a high-profile architect to build a pavilion on its lawn, to be ogled for a few months in the summer until the fanfare dies down and autumn sets in. But where do they go when it’s all over? In an architectural “Where Are They Now?” Domus magazine’s Marina Otero Verzier tries to dig up the various resting places of these ephemeral structures, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. While most, like the 2012 pavilion, are purchased by art-collecting billionaires, Mittal was the first to buy one without the cover of anonymity.

Like circus animals, the pavilions go on tour to provide spectacle in whatever town they land, whether it’s for their architectural value or not. After serving a brief stint as a promotional visitors center on the Battersea Powerplant’s lawn, Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond‘s 2002 glassy mish-mash of trapezoids is now the hot hangout spot of a beachside St. Tropez club; nearby on Provence’s Château la Coste vineyard, Frank Gehry‘s 2008 raw, construction zone of a pavilion landed in a wine-and-architecture destination for the wealthy. Daniel Libsekind‘s steely “Eighteen Turns” pavilion from 2001 was spotted at the European Capital of Culture celebrations in Cork before vanishing once again into the ether. The saddest story of all? The once-lauded Zaha Hadid pavilion from 2000, now a ghost of its former glory, is “covered in grey tarpaulin” and a little worse for wear. It’s also the £950-per-day Kingsford Room, wedding reception, banquet, and bar mitzvah hall extraordinaire. Its days as a pavilion in the sun have long past, but at least we know where it is, and that the parties are still raging on. [Domus]

— Janelle Zara