Art review: Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London


What is it? Zaha Hadid’s renovation and extension of an 1805 gunpowder store, turning it into a new Serpentine gallery in London’s Hyde Park. The project cost £14.5 million.

The Independent says: “The headline feature of Hadid’s renovation and extension of the 215-year-old building is the languid lily-white roof of the new gallery’s café and social space. The canopy ripples outwards from the old brick facade, and melts down over the glass walls like a subsiding Modernist soufflé to touch the ground at three points. Some may declare it an outrage that a Grade II* listed building, designed by Decimus Burton, should be carbuncled with a kind of Mr Whippy splodge minus the Flake. And not a few architectural aficionados will wince and murmur: “Designer chic.” [But] interventions of this design quality show how historic buildings, regardless of scale, can retain their historic character, yet reach forward ingeniously into the 21st century … By Hadid’s standards, the new extension is remarkably deferential to its context.”

They say: The Telegraph: “The effect is determinedly homogeneous: a pristine white shell, entirely devoid of articulation or scale. If you were told you had accidentally wandered into the saleroom of a superyacht vendor, you might not be entirely surprised. The project may fulfil the Serpentine’s ambitions for it more than adequately but, as an addition to a historic building of some quality, it is hard to see it as other than aggressive and banal.”

The Evening Standard: “The main building’s geometry has been cleaned up and sympathetically augmented, using historically appropriate bricks … But it is the new addition [that] will draw the eye and fire the imagination of the casual visitor … the coated glass fibre of the roof breasts up into the sky and spools in places down to earth like unravelling silk.”

You say: @TonyRogers70: “Just love the organic, undulating form … Stunning.”

@malouie: “Architecture that looks like a manta ray!”