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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

SERPENTINE SACKLER GALLERY in London by Zaha Hadid Architects

October 4th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Zaha Hadid Architects

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.

Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

  • Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Location: London
  • Photography: Luke Hayes
  • Overall site area: 3,414 m2
  • Gross internal area: Total: 1566m2
  • Architectural Design: Zaha Hadid, with Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Architectural Project Director: Charles Walker, Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Architectural Project Lead, Phase 1: Thomas Vietzke, with Jens Borstelmann, Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Architectural Project Lead, Phase 2: Fabian Hecker, Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Structural Engineering: Ed Clark, with Jolyon Smith and Chris Neighbour, ARUP
  • Project Directors: Julia Peyton-Jones, with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine Galleries
  • Project Leader: Julie Burnell, with Amy Brown, Serpentine Galleries
  • Project Managers: Ian Eggers, Gareth Stapleton, Bob White, Peter George, Wayne Glaze, Pat Walsh, Jim Ledger, Rise
  • Architectural 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, Zaha Hadid Architects

Powder room, Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

  • Restaurant Mise-en-Scène & Gift Shop: Melodie Leung, Maha Jutay, Claudia Glas-Dorner, Evgeniya Yatsyuk, Kevin Sheppard, Carine Posner, Maria Leni Popovici, Loulwa Bohsali, Karine Yassine, Steve Blaess, Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Lighting Designer: Arnold Chan, Isometrix Lighting + Design
  • Landscape Designer: Arabella Lennox-Boyd, Arabella Lennox-Boyd Landscape Design
  • Westminster City Council:  Hassan Lashkariani, Building Control, Westminster City Council District Surveyor’s Office Jenny Wilson, Licensing Surveyor, Westminster City Council Harriet Whitehorn, Planning Officer, Westminster City Council Kate Green, Planning Officer, Westminster City Council Barbara Milne, Senior Arboricultural Officer, Westminster City Council Dave Nevitt, Environmental Health Officer, Westminster City Council David Doyle, Fire Safety Inspecting Officer, Westminster City Council
  • English Heritage: William Reading, Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas, Heritage Protection and Planning
  • Construction: Mike Bridges, with Simon Frawley and Eugene McCormick, Galliford Try Construction
  • Consultants: Barnaby Collins and James Penfold, DP9; Anthony Fowler and Peter Mundy, Gleeds; Gareth Sefton, Sefton Horn Winch

North gallery (looking west), Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

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: 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

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 inbetween
  • 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

West gallery (looking south), Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

Instrumental to the transformation into a public art gallery was the decision to reinstate the historic arrangement of the agazine 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 nonhistoric partition walls within the former gunpowder stores were removed. The fl at 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.

East gallery (looking north), Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

The surrounding structure has been clarifi ed 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.

South gallery (towards east gallery), Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

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 fi xed louver system they create perfectly lit exhibition spaces. Retractable blinds allow for a complete black-out of the galleries. The continuous sky-light makes the vertical rotrusion 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 offi ces for the Serpentine’s curatorial team.

South gallery (towards store), Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

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 fi rst permanent tensile structure and realization of our current research into curvelinear structural surfaces.

South gallery (looking west), Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

The tailored, glass-fi bre 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 fi ve 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.

Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

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 fl uidity. The only fi xed elements within the space are the kitchen island and a long smooth bar counter that fl ows 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.

Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

Image Courtesy © Luke Hayes

Image Courtesy © Zaha Hadid Architects

Image Courtesy © Zaha Hadid Architects

Image Courtesy © Zaha Hadid Architects

Image Courtesy © Zaha Hadid Architects

Image Courtesy © Zaha Hadid Architects

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