The excitement over the annual Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens often has more to do with the modish names that are commissioned than the quality of their designs. But after last year’s ponderously wooden effort from Frank Gehry, the Serpentine has struck lucky this summer with an elegant pavilion by SANAA. Sporting a multi-lobed roof of polished aluminium on hyper-slender columns, it looks terrific—at least until you notice the surrounding landscape, where a fringe of white stone chippings abruptly gives way to ineptly-laid squares of turf that already are brown and eroded. Each year the Serpentine hosts one of London’s hottest parties, where the art world mingles with money and supposed celebrities, but this ragged landscape can’t be blamed on the heels of the fashionistas. No, this is where Japanese refinement meets good old British bodging and in that contest there will only ever be one winner.
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