The Serpentine Sackler Gallery consists of two distinct parts, namely the conversion of a classical 19th century brick structure—The Magazine—and a 21st century tensile structure. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery is thus—after MAXXI in Rome—the second art space where Zaha Hadid Architects have created a synthesis of old and new. The Magazine was designed as a Gunpowder Store in 1805. It comprises two raw brick barrel vaulted spaces (where the gunpowder was stored) and a lower square-shaped surrounding structure with a frontal colonnade.
The building continued to be in military use until 1963. Since then Royal Parks used the building for storage. The Magazine thus remained underutilised until now. Over time, much amendment and alteration has occurred inside the historic building and its surroundings.
Instrumental to the transformation into a public art gallery was the decision to reinstate the historic arrangement of the Magazine building as a free-standing pavilion within an enclosure, whereby the former courtyards would be covered and become internal exhibition spaces. In order to reveal the original central spaces, all non-historic partition walls within the former gunpowder stores were removed. The ﬂat gauged arches over the entrances were reinstated whilst the historic timber gantry crane was maintained. Necessary services and lighting were discreetly integrated as to not interfere with “as found” quality of the spaces. These vaults are now part of the sequence of gallery spaces.
The surrounding structure has been clariﬁed and rationalized to become a continuous, open sequence of exhibition spaces looping around the two central powder rooms, thus following the simplicity and clarity of Leo von Klenze’s Glyptothek as an early model for a purpose built gallery. What was a courtyard before, became an interior top-lit gallery space. Longitudinal roof lights deliver natural daylight into the whole gallery sequence surrounding the central vaults and with a ﬁxed louver system they create perfectly lit exhibition spaces. Retractable blinds allow for a complete black-out of the galleries. The continuous skylight makes the vertical protrusion of the central core of the building (containing the two vaults) legible on the inside. These reconstructions and conversions were designed in collaboration with heritage specialist Liam O’Connor and in consultation with English Heritage and Westminster City Council. In addition to the exhibition spaces the restored and converted Magazine also houses the museum shop and ofﬁces for the Serpentine’s curatorial team.
The extension contains a generous, open social space that we expect to enliven the Serpentine Sackler Gallery as a new cultural and culinary destination. The extension has been designed to complement the calm and solid classical building with a light, transparent, dynamic and distinctly contemporary space of the 21st century. The synthesis of old and new is thus a synthesis of contrasts. The new extension feels ephemeral, like a temporary structure, although it is a fully functional permanent building. It is our ﬁrst permanent tensile structure and realization of our current research into curvelinear structural surfaces. The tailored, glass-ﬁbre woven textile membrane is an integral part of the building’s loadbearing structure. It stretches between and connects a perimeter ring beam and a set of ﬁve interior columns that articulate the roof’s highpoints. Instead of using perimeter columns, the edge beam—a twisted ladder truss supported on three points—dips down to the supporting ground in front, in the back, and on the free west side. On the east side this edge beam (and thus the roof of the extension) swings above the parapet of the Magazine. A linear strip of glazing gives the appearance that the roof is hovering above the Magazine without touching. The Magazine’s western exterior brick wall thus becomes an interior wall within the new extension without losing its original function and beauty. This detail is coherent with the overall character of the extension as a ‘light touch’ intervention.
The envelope is completed by a curved, frameless glass wall that cantilevers from the ground to reach the edge beam and fabric roof. The interior of the new extension is a bright, open space with light pouring in from all sides and through the 5 steel columns that open up as light scoops. The anticlastic curvature of the roof animates the space with its sculptural, organic ﬂuidity. The only ﬁxed elements within the space are the kitchen island and a long smooth bar counter that ﬂows along the Magazine’s brick wall. The tables, banquets and chairs are designed as a continuous Voronoi pattern, reminiscent of organic cell structures. Our aim is to create an intense aesthetic experience, an atmosphere that seems to oscillate between being an extension of the delightful beauty of the surrounding nature and of being an alluring invitation into the enigma of contemporary art.
Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Design: Zaha Hadid with Patrik Schumacher
Project Director: Charles Walker
Project Lead (Phase 1): Thomas Vietzke, Jens Borstelmann
Project Lead (Phase 2): Fabian Hecker
Project Team: Ceyhun Baskin, Torsten Broeder, David Campos, Suryansh Chandra, Inanc Eray, Matthew Hardcastle, Dillon Lin, Elke Presser, Marina Duran Sancho, Timothy Schreiber, Jianghai Shen, Marcela Spadaro, Anat Stern, Laymon Thaung, Claudia Wulf
Restaurant mise en scene & Gift Shop: Melodie Leung, Maha Jutay, Claudia Glas-Dorner, Evgeniya Yatsyuk, Kevin Sheppard, Carine Posner, Maria Leni Popovici, Loulwa Bohsali, Karine Yassine, Steve Blaess
Conservation Architects: Liam O’Connor Architects
Kitchen: Sefton Horn Winch
Planning Consultants: DP9
Project Management: Rise
Cost Consultants: Gleeds
Contract Administrator: Gleeds
Gross internal area: Total 1566m2
Dimension of Serpentine Sackler Gallery
Height: 8.95m from the ground at the building’s highest pointInternal area (usable) 1355m2
Building footprint: 1328m2
Maximum ceiling height internally:
– Galleries: 3.60m
– Stores (2 rooms at front): 2.95m
– Powder rooms: 7.50m to top of vault, 4.30m to timber beams
– Western extension (social space): up to 6.00m
Steel used for Social space in total: 33t, ca 21t for ring beam, ca 12t for columns (2.4t per column)
Overall site area
• 3,414 m2
Gross internal area
• Total: 1566m2
Dimension of Serpentine Sackler Gallery
• Height: 8.95m from the ground at the building’s highest point
• Internal area (usable): 1355m2
• Building footprint: 1328m2
• Maximum ceiling height internally:
-Stores (2 rooms at front): 2.95m
-Powder rooms: 7.50m to top of vault, 4.30m to timber beams
-Western extension (social space): up to 6.00m
Structure and materials
The Magazine (gallery)
• Walls: solid brick walls and vaults (existing)
• Roof: single-ply waterproofing membrane over rigid insulation. New steel structure to support new roof over galleries
Western extension (restaurant and social space)
• Roof and Structure: steel ladder frame around perimeter, clad in FRP panels, spray painted. Steel columns (structural skin) with FRP cladding to one side, spray painted. PTFE coated glass-fibre woven fabric membrane on outside, silicone-coated glass cloth on inside with multi-foil insulation in-between
• Glass walls: laminated double glazing, low iron. Laminated glass fins, low iron
• Floor: terrazzo tiles over underfloor heating
Northern extension (office space)
• Roof: single-ply waterproofing membrane over rigid insulation
• Walls: cavity walls with stock brick to match existing externally
• Floor: terrazzo tiling/carpet over underfloor heating
• The Magazine: a public gallery space during the day (10.00am – 6.00pm) and a space for evening event hire (6.30pm – 11.00pm).
• Western extension: a restaurant and social space
• Northern extension: office space