The first ever Dulwich Pavilion has opened the grounds of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and, if all goes to plan, it could turn into an annual fixture, giving the Serpentine’s yearly temporary installation a run for its money

Words: Trish Lesslie

The structure, in place from 1 June to 31 August, will host a range of events to celebrate the gallery’s bicentenary this year, with food and drink provided by local favourite The Camberwell Arms. The partnership between Dulwich Picture Gallery (DPG) and the London Festival of Architecture has also given emerging architects an opportunity to create a response to the original gallery building – an innovative design by Sir John Soane and extended by Rick Mather – and its beautiful garden setting.

The winners of the competition, seeing off over 70 other entrants, was IF_DO, a practice established in 2014 by Al Scott, Sarah Castle and Thomas Bryans. Its ‘After Image’ concept responds to the solidity and monolithic nature of Sir John Soane’s gallery building and the porous, ever-changing nature of the landscape.

A series of translucent mirrored screens – some fixed, some moveable – reflect and disrupt the context. The lightweight structure also features a timber truss roof overlaid with a mesh veil to create a canopy-like environment that enhances the layering of images and the interplay of space, perception and memory.

‘Being selected for the Dulwich Pavilion gives us a really exciting opportunity to create an inspirational structure for the London Festival of Architecture,’ says Scott. ‘Blurring the boundary between gallery and landscape, the pavilion creates a heightened sensory experience through a series of unfolding, translucent mirrored screens, inspired by the work of Sir John Soane.’

The design reflects the practice’s philosophy, which is the potential of architecture to have benefits far beyond a building’s walls or the site boundary. ‘We are dedicated to creating projects with a positive impact on users, the environment and the local community,’ says Bryans. ‘This is something that we believe in passionately, and that we seek to do with all of our projects.’

Children will want to play in it; adults will want to stop and think; performers will revel in it

He cites Lower Marsh Smile as a prime example of the practice’s philosophy in action. An incredibly low-cost ‘meanwhile-use’ temporary refurbishment and improvement of a single-storey prefabricated building on Waterloo’s Lower Marsh, it will create an enterprise hub and co-working space that supports start-up businesses and provides job training for the unemployed while enhancing the existing streetscape.

‘Simple but sophisticated, edgy but engaging,’ is how Carl Turner of the panel of leading architectural and cultural figures on the judging panel describes IF_DO’s pavilion design.

‘IF_DO dazzled, with their thoughtful, thought-provoking concept, harmonising in subtle ways with Sir John Soane and his great building, playing games with image and reflection, evoking the loveliness of the garden and its trees,’ says Ian A C Dejardin, Sackler Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery. ‘Children will want to play in it; adults will want to stop and think; performers will revel in it.’

The Pavilion will allow the gallery to overcome a lack of existing space to stage an ambitious celebratory programme of exhibitions, events, lectures and learning activities (see below).

Made possible thanks to generous sponsorship from Almacantar, a property investment and development company specialising in large-scale, complex investments in central London, the project also brings together the world’s oldest public gallery and the world’s largest public architecture festival, the London Festival of Architecture 2017.

Now in its 13th year, the festival celebrates innovation and design through a programme that focuses on London as a global architectural hub. The theme for this year’s event, which runs from 1-30 June across the capital, is ‘memory’ and the Pavilion epitomises the festival’s missions to support London architectural talent, enthuse and engage with the public and find new ways to look at familiar places.

Move over Serpentine Gallery. There’s a new pavilion in town…


events at the pavilion

Art-themed evenings featuring talks, live music, drop-in art sessions and cocktails galore will take place every Friday throughout June and July. It’s free, including entry to the permanent collection throughout the evening.

On 2 August, make and decorate your own small-scale personal pavilion out of concertinas, basic boxes and paper.

Explore the mirror illusions and innovative design of the Dulwich Pavilion and create your own layered collage on card with artist Grace Holliday on 16 August.

Sit down to a picnic on 23 August for a still life class in the garden and play with watercolour techniques inspired by Sargent’s beautiful watercolour sketches with artist Nikki Gardham.