Peyton-Jones spoke of the difference between art and architecture. Architecture, she noted, was the making of functional spaces. “These are not objects. They’re not sculpture. They are small structures designed by architects,” she said. Each pavilion incorporated a cafe in order to make visitors feel they had a reason to stay and experience it. In an age of austerity, people seem to understand and accept the relevance of the pavilions as a form of art when they feel they have a purpose.

The architects of the pavilions come from all over the world. One of the aims of the project is to exhibit the work of architects not otherwise found in London and engaging with different cultures is key in making the pavilions happen. She mentioned the inspirational “commitment to the built form” in South America, and the Japanese interest in rain which was ingeniously incorporated into the SANAA pavilion, allowing different visitor experiences, depending on the weather. A British architect, Asif Khan, will build one of this year’s Summer Houses.

Financial constraints are ever-present for Peyton-Jones. When asked what her biggest challenge is she answered, “money” and spoke of the “huge paucity of public funding”. The pavilions at the Serpentine are funded privately and the funders do not ask to see the designs before the pavilions are built. “The financial plan to continue with these projects means we have to sell them,” she said. She explained the essential process of collaboration and compromise with architects to deliver their visions within the confines of the budget.  

The first pavilion was designed by the late Zaha Hadid, who became a close friend of Peyton-Jones, who sees Hadid’s celebrity is illustrative of the change of the status of culture in our society that means artists and curators regularly hold the limelight. Peyton-Jones is no longer met with harsh criticism of the Serpentine’s expenditure from the public. On the road to freedom, this development is surely to be celebrated.

The discussion was moderated by Hywel Williams, Senior Adviser at the Legatum Institute.


About the Roads to Freedom Series

As part of The Culture of Prosperity programme, this series offers a progress report on the idea of freedom. The history of the developed west has been shaped by the increased degree of freedom exercised by individuals who have been able to escape the constraints that prevailed in the past. Contributors to this series will be drawing conclusions from the study of the past while also seeking to find ways of removing the obstacles to freedom’s progress.' The relationship between rights and duties, freedoms and responsibilities, provides Roads to Freedom with its central theme in 2016. More information is available here.