Chinese Dissident Artist to Build London 2012 Pavilion

Posted February 8th, 2012 at 1:45 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is using Skype to help design a pavilion for London's 2012 Olympics.

The outspoken social critic, who was arrested last year and charged with tax evasion, is prohibited by the Chinese government from leaving Beijing until June. Media reports say he is getting around the restriction by using the online video messaging service.

Ai is working with the Swiss architectural firm, Herzog and de Meuron, to design the pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in London's Kensington Gardens park. They last teamed up to build Beijing's celebrated “Bird's Nest” Olympic stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The Serpentine Gallery says the new project will involve digging 1.5 meters into the park's soil to collect rainwater, which will be incorporated into the design. The roof of the pavilion will appear to be above ground from some angles and below it from others.

Officials say they hope that Ai Weiwei will be able to fly to London to attend the official commissioning of the pavilion in June.

Ai was arrested in early April 2011 at the height of a crackdown on Chinese dissidents and activists, possibly prompted by fears of Middle East uprisings spreading to China. Weeks after the arrests, Beijing announced he was being held for tax evasion.

He was released after spending three months in detention, but is restricted from leaving Beijing until June.