When I lived in London I couldn’t always tell that summer had arrived by the weather; it can be cool and rainy well into July. I relied upon the opening of the Serpentine Gallery’s summer pavilions – when they opened I started wearing white pants. One of the world’s most interesting architectural events every year, I miss them more than anything else in London now that I don’t live there. As they are each obviously temporary architecture, they make you feel like a rich kid with a spectacular summer playhouse. There is always a great place to sit and chat in the shade whether the pavilion is by Rem Koolhaas or Oscar Niemeyer or Daniel Libeskind. Last but not least, Very Attractive Guys our age can be found there too, ladies.
This year there was no way I could get to the Serpentine and I considered that a tragedy as it was designed by Frank Gehry, who I deeply admire, and I wanted to share my childlike joy of those pavilions with you all. I had a good idea – call my close friend, Kathleen Ford, who lives near the Serpentine and is a terrific photographer, and ask her to photograph it as it opens for you so you can see the first architecture designed by Frank Gehry for London! My friend Kate (Kathleen, Mrs. Henry Ford, etc.) grabbed her camera and trotted to the Serpentine only to find she was too early. It wasn’t completed. She wasn’t about to make the time a waste so she talked to the builders and got them to let her make portraits of them working – and joking with her.
When I saw these pictures I realized that I have the opportunity to salute the builders of houses and all architecture in England. I have lived in many towns and countries and there is not one – not one I promise – that builds with the high-quality results that you get in England. The builders are slow, I don’t know where they store all the tea they drink, they are stubborn, they walk off the set if you aren’t appreciative enough and they certainly aren’t inexpensive. But they are the last of the top-of-the-line builders. The difference is sometimes shocking. If you have been living in expensive buildings anywhere else and then visit one in England – especially in London – the obviousness of the quality in the building and its detail is stunning. As many of the builders who know how to build so well are getting older, this quality level may die with this generation. I just want to tell those talented men that we see and appreciate their abilities and their standards.
Kate Ford captured a few of them at their work. A few weeks later she returned to photograph Frank Gehry’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion when it opened. He is said to have been inspired by Leonardo da Vinci as well as the striped walls of summer beach huts. And he worked for the first time with his son, Samuel Gehry.
It is a wood structure with glass canopies to protect you from wind or rain and it is a kind of amphitheater for all the live events and special outdoor movies that happen evenings in summer. It is worth traveling to London to spend time at the Serpentine. Julia Peyton-Jones is the director and, boy, does she have talent and guts. So here are Kate’s pictures of Frank Gehry’s pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery. Thank you, Kate. Next time go at night and film all the action and music there with sound, please.