An 1805 former gunpowder store in the Royal Park of Kensington Gardens, London, U.K., became the unlikely beneficiary of the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation’s gift to the Serpentine Gallery—the largest single gift ever received by the internationally known gallery of modern art, architecture and design. The generosity of these patrons effected a Cinderella-like transformation of the flat, unassuming store into the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which faces the original gallery across the park’s Serpentine Lake. Both galleries merge the old, the new and the natural, but the design that achieved this distinctive blend is an attention-grabbing triumph of fabric architecture.
London-based Architen Landrell Associates partnered with Zaha Hadid Architects, also of London, designing the Serpentine Sackler Gallery by expanding the 19th century warehouse with a free-flowing conic structure made of triple-layered architectural fabric that fully encloses and insulates the interior. The outer PTFE layer is long-lasting, fire-resistant and self-cleaning. Beneath the PTFE is multi-foil insulation, followed by an inner layer of Alex 2000 silicone-coated glass that reflects light. Space between the layers assists in insulation to a U-value of 0.18. The upward-sweeping cones, supported by curving columns, have glass head rings, allowing natural light to stream inside. Glass walls installed around the organic complex fabric shape allow users of the indoor space and restaurant to enjoy the surrounding landscape and gardens. The white fabric structure appears to be draped around the glass walls, almost like a shiny white stingray settling on a sandy ocean floor.