Design for Freedom | 21st Serpentine Pavilion

Black Chapel | June 10 – October 16 2022

This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, Black Chapel was on view from June 9 through October 16. The Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens was designed by Theaster Gates.

Design for Freedom was the Responsible Materials Advisor, and worked with Serpentine Galleries and its project team to prioritize ethical procurement. The Pavilion is the first completed international Design for Freedom Pilot Project. Read more in the Press Release.

Conceived as a space for gathering, meditation and participation, with an emphasis on sacred music, Black Chapel became a platform for Serpentine Galleries’ live programs offering reflection, connection and joy to the public. Now that the Pavilion is closed, it will be re-sited to a new permanent location.

Artist and Designer: Theaster Gates

Artist Theaster Gates, Photo: Rankin Photography

Theaster Gates (b. 1973) creates works that engage with space theory, land development, sculpture and performance. Drawing on his interest and training in urban planning and preservation, the artist redeems spaces that have been left behind. His work contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise, one defined by collective desire, artistic agency and the tactics of a pragmatist.

When visiting Black Chapel, encounter: Theaster Gates’ tar paintings specifically for Black Chapel. Determined to create a space that reflects the artist’s hand and sensibilities, seven panels hang from the interior structure. In these works, Gates honors his father’s craft as a roofer and uses roofing strategies and torch down, which requires an open flame to heat the material and affix it to the surface. 

An operating bronze bell, salvaged from St. Laurence, a landmark Catholic Church that once stood in Chicago’s South Side, stands next to the entrance of the Pavilion. Underscoring the erasure of spaces for convening and spiritual communion in urban communities, the historic bell acts as a call to assembly, congregation and contemplation throughout the summer’s events. 

Responsible Materials Advisor: Design for Freedom by Grace Farms

In its role as Responsible Materials Advisor, Grace Farms worked with Serpentine and AECOM to trace several materials, including plywood and timber, steelwork, concrete, and the weatherproofing membrane. The team engaged with suppliers and manufacturers to trace and document these materials as far upstream in the supply chain as possible. Specifically, the project team was able to determine material sourcing as far back as Tier 4 suppliers and in some cases to the point of raw material extraction, thereby creating transparency and sourcing products that reduced the risk of forced and child labour in the construction of the Pavilion.

Read the Design for Freedom Pilot Project Brief

Materials tracked:

  • Plywood: Benches, exterior cladding skin
  • Timber: Truss columns, roof beams, internal walls, flooring, external cladding
  • Steel: Roof and column joists, webs
  • Concrete: Foundation
  • Waterproofing: Membrane

16+ suppliers/manufacturers in the product supply chain, free from forced or child labor

Materials sourced from: Finland, France, Ireland, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States

Certifications include: FSC, PEFC, BES 6001 & 6002

Additional sustainability certifications and standards include: BM Trada, Cradle to Gate, EPDs, ISO 9001 & 14001

Suppliers provided the following documentation to meet Design for Freedom Principles:

  • Codes of Conduct, Codes of Ethics
  • CSR & ESG Policies, Human Rights Policies
  • Slavery & Human Trafficking Statements
  • UK Modern Slavery Act Compliance

If you have visited Black Chapel, please share your experience and Tag us! @dffmovement @gracefarmsct and use hashtags: #gracefarmsct #designforfreedom