Ai Weiwei and Beijing stadium architects to make Serpentine pavilion

Chinese artist and Swiss architects who together designed stadium for 2008 Games collaborate on London 2012 project

Four years after designing the spectacular Bird's Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing, the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei are to reunite for a London 2012 project.

The Serpentine Gallery announced on Tuesday that the Beijing team would collaborate again to design this year's pavilion – the 12th commission in what has become a major annual event on the architecture calendar.

Julia Peyton-Jones, the director of the gallery, said it was "tremendously exciting", adding: "What is so fantastic is that it is this extraordinary link of the two games, a Beijing-London axis.

"These are old and dear friends, so for them [Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ai Weiwei], they are picking up where they left off. It is a continuation of a conversation that began in Beijing to great effect and they have conceived something really remarkable for our lawn."

The involvement of Ai will be cheering news for anyone familiar with the tumultuous 12 months he has had.

In October 2010 he won global attention with his commission for the turbine hall in Tate Modern in which he filled the space with 100m porcelain sunflower seeds. Things then took a dramatic turn last April when he was arrested and held without charge for nearly three months by the Chinese authorities, a move generally seen as a punishment for his outspoken views and activism. Ai was held incommunicado and interrogated more than 50 times for, the authorities later said, supposed breaches of tax laws.

In an interview with Guardian last November he admitted that the threat of being arrested once more was always there – "Every day I think: 'This will be the day I will be taken in again.'"

Ai has been planning the project with Herzog and de Meuron using Skype and it remains to be seen whether he will be allowed to leave China by the time the pavilion is up in June.

A few details of their plans have been revealed including the indication of it being the Serpentine's lowest pavilion ever, with the roof barely 1.5 metres (5ft) off the ground. People will be able to go under it because the trio plan to dig down a few feet.

In a joint statement they said they would celebrate all the past pavilions as well as their own but it would not look like anything that had gone before. "So many pavilions in so many different shapes and out of so many different materials have been conceived and built that we tried instinctively to sidestep the unavoidable problem of creating an object, a concrete shape."

There will be 12 columns – 11 representing the previous pavilions and one for the present – supporting a floating platform roof 5ft from the ground. The roof will collect rainwater and reflect the sky as well as being capable of being drained and used for special events "as a dance floor or simply as a platform suspended above the park".

The trio promise that the pavilion will become "the perfect place to sit, stand, lie down or just look and be amazed".

It will be part of the London 2012 festival, a jamboree of events across the UK that will mark the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.

The pavilion designers follow some impressive names, starting in 2000 with Zaha Hadid and including the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, as well as Olafur Eliasson and Peter Zumthor, who designed it last year.


Mark Brown, arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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