Final Destination, Serpentine


Serpentine gives its name to the challenge of harmonizing a 19th century building with another 21st century building with ultra-modern architecture. The authors of this challenge, Zaha Hadid and Architen Landrell, added a triple-layer membrane covering to the existing building with the idea of creating a light and bright structure that would look attractive from all angles. The intention was to “create a place that will become a destination.”



Mixing old and new
Zaha Hadid talks about the contrast of old and new when she says, “we don't look to the future by looking back. The idea was to really prove that you can have these two worlds together, which are the new and the old, and then the garden and the park, in an open way.
Although the structure appears temporary next to the 19th-century building, it is a completely enclosed and permanent multifunctional addition to the Serpentine Gallery in London, Great Britain.




Complex design
The free-flowing conical structure itself is extremely complex in its design, offering five elliptical glazed skylights (for light transmission), five conical columns (for structure support), double curvature (in each direction) with the appearance of lightly touching the ground in two points. Structural loading analysis was vital, Architen Landrell needed to know exactly which point on the membrane was under tension and at what time, as well as ensuring everything was within the membrane's safety limits.

The frameless glass enclosure wraps around the building giving the impression that the roof is floating above the space. A preformed foam element had to be incorporated that would allow movement without damaging the glass or letting heat or air escape.




PTFE was chosen for the outer layer due to its longevity, class 0 flammability level and self-cleaning properties. A fireproof insulating layer of Firefly Vulcan and Expert 50 was placed under the PTFE layer followed by an inner layer of Atex 2000 coated with silicone and fiberglass. Each layer covers approximately 538m2 of surface. The triple layer insulation system has a U-value of 0.18 and meets Part L requirements.
Multi-layer insulation is intended for traditional wall and ceiling applications, but its flexible and durable nature makes it ideal for use as a thermal insulator in a curved fabric system.




The outer membrane was delivered in one piece and fixed in situ. To ensure complete and continuous coverage of the thermal sleeve, it was supported by a mesh net to be installed in small pieces. The interior lining was installed in two pieces and held together with cables. Finally the pieces were welded to ensure a smooth finish around the curved masts.

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