2017 Serpentine Pavilion by Francis Kéré

Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Bjarke Ingels and Ai WeiWei. These are just 3 of the 17 world-renowned artists and architects who have been invited to design a Serpentine Pavilion since the initiative began in 2000, with Hadid’s famous structure.

Every year an architect who is yet to design an England-based project is invited to create a pavilion in Hyde Park, next to the Serpentine Gallery, and this year Francis Kéré joined their ranks.


Kéré’s 2017 Serpentine Pavilion.

Francis Kéré, who was born in Gando, Burkina Faso in 1965, works for Berlin firm Kéré Architecture. Kéré moved to Berlin to train at the Technical Academy, and has since contributed work to exhibitions at MoMA and Royal Academy, London, as well as solo exhibitions at The Architecture Museum, Munich and The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Over 250,000 architecture enthusiasts visit the pavilion every year, and Bjarke Ingels 2016 structure was one of the Top 10 London Free Exhibitions. After the success and complexity of the 2016 Pavilion, I’d heard from a quite a few friends that this year’s structure fell a little flat, so I have to admit I went in a little skeptical, secretly hoping to be wowed. I wasn’t disappointed!
It is certainly true that the structure itself is fairly simple when looked at as a single entity. But the beauty of the structure I believe comes from the simplicity matched with the balanced detailing. Kéré’s inspiration for the pavilion is drawn from trees. Trees are often a central social hive in Burkina Faso, providing shelter and a social space for residents. The pavilion echos this with its wide blue base and golden canopy that funnels rain water, and shelters those beneath it all made from wood.


Detailing of the wooden panels that make up the base of the pavilion.

I was lucky enough to visit the Pavilion during a torrential rain storm (although it didn’t feel that way at the time, having failed to bring either umbrella or rain coat, thank you English summer). Underneath the canopy is dry, but the design of the roof streams the rain water into a waterfall in the centre of the structure; it is beautifully soporific.

Despite every inch of covered space being filled by patrons sheltering from the rain, having coffee, reading and drinking in the atmosphere, the rain dampens any noise except the waterfall in the middle. The happy shouts of children playing in the rain cut through the quiet, which I’m sure Kéré would love.



An Entrance to the Pavilion

Burkina Faso has one of the worst rates of education and literacy in the world. One of Kére’s projects there was the construction of Gando Primary School, which like the Serpentine Pavilion had a canopy to provide shade, and was designed to allow cool air to circulate throughout the structures. The school was built to house 150 pupils, and now has over 1,000 students!

It is true to say that unlike previous structures this pavilion isn’t designed to wow, or impress, it doesn’t push the boundaries of architecture, and for that it has received criticism. Having said that, I believe it is a great success. It is true to Kéré’s style of architecture, and has succeeded in providing a social area for people to gather and relax in all weather conditions, and for that reason, I really enjoyed it!

The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion is open until 8 October 2017, entrance is free. While there it is worth also checking out the Grayson Perry exhibition The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! at the Serpentine Gallery, entrance also free.


Post War Japanese Architecture ~ The Japanese House @ The Barbican Centre


The Barbican Centre

It’s 1945, the war is over, Japan lies in ruin. Tokyo and many other cities have been badly destroyed, and a housing crisis is imminent. Architects search for a quick and convenient way to ensure Japan’s citizens are housed, and single family homes become the new favoured architectural style. The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 takes you on a journey through Japanese architecture, from the post-war era to present day.

The exhibition is set over 2 floors, and there’s plenty to see and do here. It is incredibly tranquil and relaxing. The first room examines the role of Architects in 1950s Japan. In 1952 the Treaty of San Francisco was signed, and the Allies left Japan, after 7 years of occupation. Japanese national identity was thrown into crisis, so architects and artists looked at ways to amalgamate both traditional designs with the modern needs of the nation.

Two styles were chosen as a basis for modern design; Shinden-Zukuri, dating back to the Helan-period of 794-1185CE, designed around raised floors and open spaces (as shown below), and Minka which was generally used in rural houses and featured natural earthen floors, with large columns and roofs, dating back to the ancient Jomon period (10,500-300BC).


Mountain retreat designed and inhabited by Architect Junzo Yoshimura

The mediums the architects had to work with were reduced by the post-war economy. Architects began looking at concrete in its raw, rather than industrial forms. As over 60% of Japan’s land area is filled with forests wood has always been a fairly limitless resource. In combination the two proved to be incredibly resistant to earthquakes, and in design the stark difference between the warm nature of wood and cold industrial nature of Concrete somehow work. An example of this is seen left, in Yoshimura’s own house, where the concrete floor joins seamlessly into the forest floor.

During 1967-1969 the people of Japan rose up, and although this resistance was quickly dissipated it gave architects inspiration for a new styles. It also killed old styled. The Japanese style of Metabolism, an idealist style aiming for “Progress and Harmony for Humankind” did not sit with the younger generations.


Photo of a minimalist, open house in Japan.


Spot the dining room table.

After this, architects moved away from city life, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s larger, open spaces become more common. The 1950s/60s rush into enclosed urban housing moved away to the beautiful rural areas of Japan. Large open spaces and courtyards became more common, as can be seen in the model on the left.




The ceiling light in the Tea House.

The exhibition continues downstairs, allowing you to explore 2 Japanese Houses. The first house is a 1:1 recreation of Ryue Nishizawa’s 2005 Moriyama House, built of 10 individual units, and filled with hundreds of objects, including books, house plants, a washing machine, records and other house decor. The replicated house originally belonged to Yasuo Moriyama, and demonstrates how Japanese architects moved away from the traditional idea of a house.

Outside the house you can watch Ila Beka and Louise Lemoine’s new film Moriyama-san which I didn’t get to watch fully, although it is very tempting to return, and watch the whole thing.


Part of the interior of Fujimori’s Tea House

The second half of the downstairs area comprises of a second house and moss-themed garden. Terunobu Fujimori, a Japanese architect and historian commissioned this tea house and garden. The tea-house is simply built, formed of a single room with a timber exterior and white plaster interior, with walls covered in irregular rock pieces. If you remove your shoes, you can enter the house (4 people maximum at a time). It is wonderfully tranquil and ultimately minimalist.



Scale model of one of the houses in the shinden-zukuri style.

The exhibition is beautifully laid out and fairly compartmentalised;  upstairs houses all the models, and plans for various Japanese housing designs, and contains most of the information, whilst the downstairs houses the two houses described above. Admittedly I went on a Sunday afternoon, so it was never going to be deserted, but the exhibition did seem a tad crowded at times, mainly upstairs where there were a couple of bottle necks, although the downstairs felt spacious, although you may have to queue to enter the house.



Inside the House

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 runs at the Barbican Art Gallery until 25 June, and tickets range from £5-£14.50.

N.B. If you’re under 25 listen up! This is the first time I’ve taken advantage of my Young Barbican membership, and I’m sad I haven’t used it more, especially given I lived there for my first year of uni! The exhibition was only £5, and you can see loads of cinema and theatre for between £5-£15, which for London is a bargain! Don’t miss out, sign up today! It’s free, and is one of the best Young Person’s schemes available!

Degas to Picasso at The Ashmolean Museum

The Ashmolean Museum has long since been one of my favourite Museums in Britain; Its grand exterior, huge collection and extensive range of content have always drawn me, from my first visit nearly 10 years ago on a school Latin trip.


The artists featured in the exhibition

Having learnt Ballet from the age of 11 I’ve always been enthralled by Degas’ beautiful oil paintings of dancers from unique, novel standpoints; the impressionist fluidity brings beauty to the eye of all beholders! I recently started learning more about Pablo Picasso, after visiting a wonderful exhibition at my favourite modern art museum (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark) entitled ‘Picasso before Picasso’, housing many of his early sketches and pieces produced while he was still studying. Naturally, having seen a sign on the Underground “Degas to Picasso”, my interest was peaked, and a return megabus trip to Oxford was booked!

Housed across a single floor at the top of the museum, the exhibition isn’t the largest space you’ll see names such as Matisse, Chagall and Renoir displayed, but it’s certainly not cramped! Going on a quiet Thursday afternoon in term time, I was surprised at how busy the exhibition was, and I can’t imagine what it must be like on a Saturday afternoon, expect queueing to see your favourite artists works!


The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The exhibition takes you chronologically from the start of the artistic revolution. Historically starting post French Revolution and beginning with the works of Jaques Louis David, often perceived to be the founder of the Neoclassical movement in the art world. His painting The Oath of Horatii was wildly popular within the 1785 Paris Salon. Along side this you will discover a wide range of works, including Géricault’s often brutal and realist paintings of war, balanced against some lighter political satire from the 1860s by Daumier; think classical Banksy.

From the revolutionaries the exhibition takes you forward to a new era in art history. In 1874 a small group of artists split from the Paris Salon to pave the way for an astounding new artistic movement; Impressionism. Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissaro and Cezanne set a blazing trail in to the unknown genre, free from any prerequisite rules of the classical art world.

Gris Painting

Still Life with Guitar – Juan Gris

The final section of the exhibition focussed on Picasso, and other innovators of cubism, modernism and surrealism. The Ursula and R. Stanley Johnson Family Collection provide a selection of both his work, and the work of artists such as Braque. My favourite pieces in this section, were those by Juan Gris, demonstrating the beauty of cubism, as seen on the left (image borrowed from Google).

Overall, the exhibition is a fantastic introduction to this era of art. It may not be the longest exhibition, but it is well worth the trip to the museum! It’s not often you find yourself with the opportunity to be in the same room as so many great pieces of art work; 5*s!

That History Girl Travels ~ Oslo Day 4

Day 4 in Oslo was our final day with our Oslo Passes, and we each decided to go to museums of personal interest.

2017-01-23-17.16.11.jpg.jpegI started my day visiting the Jewish Museum. Jewish history throughout Europe is an area I find fascinating! Each city I go to I visit the Jewish museum, and discover such a varied history and experience each native Jewish people have lived through. Norway is not widely known for its involvement in WWII, however it suffered a huge loss of Jewish citizens during the war; of over 2,000 Jews living in Norway before the war, only 25 survived.

During the war, countless children and families were saved by the Carl Fredriksen Transport Project. A group of rebels saved families by transporting them to Sweden, hidden in trucks, under covers, the children often sedated to keep them calm. Named after the Norwegian King Haakon VII (who’s birth name was Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel) the operation transported over 1,000 refugees to Sweden.

Although a small museum, there is plenty to do; the bathroom is certainly worth a visit, all around the walls are stories or jokes, in Norwegian, English and Hebrew, left as momentos. The building is quite hard to find, hidden away behind gates, you have to be buzzed in, but it houses a fascinating history. The museum was originally a synagogue, however after the war it became a Muslim school, and eventually a Gay Bar!

2017-01-23-17.18.58.jpg.jpegThe Museum of Architecture and the Museum of Contemporary Art lie next to one another geographically and are part of the National Galley collections which will soon be housed together in a single building.

The Museum of Contemporary art is one of the larger museums in Oslo, and spread over 2 floors. Downstairs was a temporary exhibition by Sidsel Paaske; “On the Verge”. Upstairs houses the permanent exhibitions of Louise Bourgeois and an environmental exhibition spanning most of the upper floor with interactive rooms where you can make model jelly fish, watch films and learn about conservation projects around the world.

img_20161222_105438.jpgThe museum’s interior is beautiful, with golden gilt additions to ceilings and gorgeous arches its architecture itself is worth seeing.

Just across the road from the Museum of Contemporary Art lies The National Museum – Architecture. Housed in the old National Bank Building, and redecorated by architect Sverre Fehn the Architecture Museum contains 1 permanent exhibition and 2 temporary exhibitions at any given time. The permanent exhibition focuses on architecture in Norway and major projects managed by Norwegian architects, such as their Opera House, designed by Snohetta2017-01-23-17.17.26.jpg.jpeg.

The smaller exhibition, housed in the vault of the old bank focussed on the bank robberies carried out by Ole Hoiland in 1835, which led to his imprisonment in Akershus Fortress (and his subsequent 11 successful escape attempts).
The final exhibition, “Baking Bad” exhibited works from an annual gingerbread baking competition for school children. They were utterly fabulous!! The photo (left) shows one of the winning entries, a gingerbread model of the house from “Up”. All the entries were inspired by TV or films and ranged from recreations of King Kong hanging from the Empire State Building, to Hagrid’s cabins to Walter White’s infamous meth lab. In the corner was a small station where you could build your own mini sculpture.

2017-01-23-17.23.09.jpg.jpegThe National Gallery lies about a 15 minute walk from the Architecture and Contemporary Art museums. Admittedly our main purpose of visiting the museum was to see Munch’s Scream, following the disappointing lack of Scream at the Munch Museum. Thankfully it was no Mona Lisa moment and the painting was large, and uncrowded. Our favorite paintings however were by Norwegian painters Christian Krohg and Harald Sohlberg.

2017-01-27-16.24.35.jpg.jpegOur final stop for the day was the Reptile Park; definitely one of our favorites. I’ve always loved snakes, as a child most of my birthday parties were animal parties, concluding with a boa constrictor using all the guests stomachs as a transport medium. It was even the highlight of my 18th birthday party, and the snake deciding my little brother looked like a yummy dinner, and beginning to entwine itself around him only made it more entertaining. 2017-01-23-17.27.13.jpg.jpegAdmittedly the Planet Earth 2 Iguana vs Snake scene made me more wary, but getting to hold a snake was a definite highlight!

2017-01-23-17.26.33.jpg.jpegThe range of animals at the reptile park was huge! From Marmoset to 10 species of snake, black widow spiders, turtles, alligators and frogs there’
s something for everyone!

If you come at the right time you can see the animals be20161220_150905.jpging fed, and sometimes hold some of them. Even if you arrive too late for this the animals really wake up afterwards! One of the snakes was on a mission to escape, which he kept doing for about half an hour, trying to fit through the small gap in the glass (it was about 1cm wide, no way he could get out).

The marmosets are very friendly, and will come up to the glass and interact with you, even start talking to you too! They live in an enclosure with a beautiful golden dragon. I may have spent a lot of time befriending the monkeys!

Our evening ended up in Hard Rock Cafe, again. Seriously Oslo, vegetarian food needs to be a thing!

That History Girl Travels ~ Oslo Day 2

After a pretty decent nights sleep (we were out like lights at 10pm) and despite a rather noisy dorm mate, woke up refreshed and ready for our 8am start.

Having bought an Oslo 72 hour pass (£50 for students) we were keen to visit as many museums as possible.

We arrived at the Munch Museum bright and early for its 10am opening time, hoping to see Munch’s famous painting The Scream. Unfortunately, having been stolen in 2004 and sadly damaged before its 2006 return it wasn’t on show, rather disappointing given every poster bore it’s unmistakable features. Nevertheless, an exhibition on Munch and his contemporary, Jorn, provided an interesting hour.

The highlight for myself and Emily was the colour by numbers section of the exhibit; we had a competition on FB to decide the best one. Emily won. I’m not bitter. 

After the Munch Museum, Emily and I parted ways, she went to the Natural History Museum, whilst I headed to the Astrup Fearnley Modern Art Gallery, which focused on both art and Architecture.


The building itself is a beautiful work of architecture, divided into two halves, one containing the permanent collection, the other housing temporary exhibits. The temporary exhibition “Los Angeles – A Fiction” was by far my favorite,  featuring many American artists including Alexis Smith, David Hockney and Charles Ray.

The permanent collection was much larger, with a wider range of mediums, however I found it rather bland. Bisected baby cows in preservative, and crucified sheep are not art. They are simply cruel, hideous and unnecessary. The highlight of this half was a 10ft high bookshelf sporting large grey lead books, by artist Anselm Kiefer.

After my brief trip to the modern era it was time to go back to ancient times and visit the castle or Akershus Fortress.

Within the fortress walls also lies the Resistance Museum which catalogs the struggles of the Norwegian Resistance throughout the 2nd world war, through continued fighting, underground publications and refusal to fight. Whilst not the largest museum, and mostly in Norwegian (although there is a good guide English guide book) it tells the stories through the medium of models.

A20161218_143301.jpgs with all or Norway, it seems, the castle itself was closed for the winter. Ordinarily the interior of the castle, as well as the Mausoleum and Chapel are open to the public, however when we went only the visitors center was available.  The visitors center itself was essentially a museum, with 2 rooms focusing on the history of the castle and relations between Norway-Denmark and its battles with surrounding countries, and another room on the castle’s previous function as a prison.

Still an active government / military base, visitors can watch the changing of the guard, raising and lowering of the flag at sunrise and sunset (about 3pm in December), as well as enjoy a beautiful walk around the castle grounds.

Our final stop was an evening visit to the Film Museum, housed on the ground floor of a large cinema complex. With late opening hours, and free entry, we tacked it on to our itinerary. The museum is small, and whilst an English information sheet is provided, it rarely matched up to the pieces on show.  It’s a quaint museum fairly close to the castle, so a good one to visit if you find yourself nearby with half an hour to kill.

After another dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (yes it’s the only place that serves vegetarian food) we were back at the hostel to read and relax (and enjoy the US netflix options Norway gets) it was sleep time again!

Pennys,  Trains and Butts – The Turner Prize 2016

The Turner Prize for modern art, first awarded in 1984 is a celebration of modern, innovative, British art. Awarded annually to an artist born, living or working in the UK, aged 40 or under, the prize has caused much controversy over its 32 year history.

In 2016 Helen Marten,  Anthea Hamilton, Josephine Pryde and Michael Dean all vie for the £25,000 prize, and the critical acclaim that accompanies it.

The Turner Prize Installations, housed at the Tate Britain, comprise of 4 rooms, one per artist. The £9.50 Student concession price does seem rather steep,  particularly if the prize is designed, at least partially, to inspire a new generation of British artists!

The first room, belonging to Helen Marten was probably my least favourite, and left me feeling distinctly underwhelmed. Whilst the ornate, multisegmented insects hanging from the walls were visually appealing, striking they were not! I may be vaguely biased on this matter; the incessant screeching of the alarm signalled that, yet again, a small child in clumsy Lelly Kellys, playing hopscotch over the “Do Not Cross” line had narrowly avoided damaging the artwork, as her mother gazed on, disinterested.

Anthea Hamilton’s exhibition was the space I knew the most about before arriving. Based on her New York exhibition Anthea Hamilton: Lichen! Libido! Chastity! for which she was nominated, her Tate installation has attracted huge public attention, particularly for the ginormous butt pictured above. Countless selfies and photos flood the instagram hashtag with Project for a Door (the official name for the derriere in question) which was inspired by designer Gaetano Pesce’s plan for a New York doorway. Reactions from my fellow museum goers ranged from the very British embarrassment,  to mildly amused through to 3 gleeful children, excited about this rather large ‘taboo’ presented before them. I found it oddly entrancing, and almost hard to look away.

The other half of Hamilton’s room is dominated by a floor to ceiling photo of the June London sky. In front of it hangs several silver chastity belts, decorated with rosemary, or with ornate carvings.

Room number 3; Designed by Josephine Pryde, this room is probably the simplest design, but in no way does this detract from the effectiveness. A Class 65 diesel train, decorated with graffiti, sits on tracks that span the length of the room, almost inviting the viewer to clamber aboard.

Around the room photographs adorn the wall, part of Josephine Pryde’s Hands “Für Mich”, mainly focused on, as the name would suggest, hands, sporting immaculate nail varnish. After the more explicit nature of Anthea Hamilton’s room Pryde’s room felt all together more soporific. The photos on the wall all contain a message about society and/or feminism, however they aren’t thrust into the face of the viewer, she simply allows you to seek the message if you wish.

The final room was arranged by Michael Dean. Probably my favourite room, the majority of floor space was taken up by a huge mound of pennies, £20,435.99 worth to be exact. Out of the pennies sprung a corregated steel family of 4, they gaze over the money that represents their poverty line. On completing the room Dean removed a single penny, effectively putting the family below the poverty line. Coming together with concrete sculptures, ink-died books, and seemingly random models of fists, this piece of art is a beautifully jumbled commentary on modern society, strongly influenced by Dean’s Newcastle upbringing.

Michael Dean’s art was definately the most disordered, and least ‘readable’ beyond the poignant carpet of coins; Ironic, as the starting point for his work is usually writing. The room was increadibly busy, with artwork popping up in unexpected locations on the floor, and narrow spaces for visitors to pass through, it certainly kept you on your toes!

Overall this was a great afternoon out, albeit fairly busy with limited space for people to move around between the pieces of artwork in some rooms.

Having spent £10 on the exhibition, being the cheap student I am, I obviously wanted to get the most out of my money, so I watched every film at the end, flicked through every book, and read every comment on the comment board. Whilst doing this I discovered that the artists had envisioned, or produced far more tactile pieces of work than we were allowed to engage in.

Anthea Hamilton had designed her suit and boots to be handled and felt, and yet we couldn’t enjoy this aspect of this exhibition. Josephine Pryde had intended visitors to her exhibition to ride on the train and from here enjoy the photos on the wall, and yet we just admired. Finally, Michael Dean initially allowed visitors to walk over his mound of coins, to feel the sea-like movement, and hear the metallic clatter.We could only observe, transfixed by the gleaming mass before us.

For modern art, tactility can often form a large dimension of the experience, and yet this was taken away from us; how then can we truly judge the art work? Isn’t it unfair, too, for the artists who worked and laboured, only to have their greatest works admired only in 3D, instead of its full 4D glory?

I really hope in future the Tate will allow artists, and visitors to produce,  and engage in more immersive pieces, and truly allow us to connect.  Especially if they’re gonna charge us a tenner for it.

The Turner Prize Installations are running at the Tate Britain until 2 January 2017 . Price range from £9.50 to £12