A place for Londoners to relax on hot summer days at the Burlington Gardens…

SO? Architecture and Ideas were commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts and Turkish Ceramics to create an installation at the Burlington Gardens in London. SO? was selected from a design competition between four up-and-coming design practices assessed by a judging panel.

Unexpected Hill is a three dimensional urban landscape made of ceramic triangular prisms of various lengths. The growing, blue stairs create the unexpected hill.  Ceramic tiles are used by SO? to form a space rather than a decorative material. SO? was inspired by 2D ceramic patterns found in architecture throughout history. However they convert a 2-dimensional object into a 3-dimensional space, inspired by the structural principles of muqarnas which is a form of ornamental tiled vaulting commonly found in Islamic architecture. Shapes and colors are used for an optical effect. The columns are clad with white and light blue tiles made from the lightest ceramic in the world, created by Turkish ceramic brand, Kale.

The hill is actually a tunnel that visitors can pass through and provides a public seating area as well as a climbing opportunity. From the top point of the hill people can see the sky through a ceramic surface. Translucent ceramics illuminates the hill during the night. Plants inside the pots covering the ceramic surface adds greenery to the hill. Being a gathering point, the Unexpected Hill aims to be an experience in daily life to be shared.

As the RA plans to transform both Burlington Gardens and Burlington House into a public space, “Unexpected Hill” is considered a part of this transformation attracting more people towards the building and a sign of a major change in the future.

The Unexpected Hill is accompanied by a wall of ceramics designed by Tamer Nakisci inside the RA that visitors can interact with.  They can play around with tiles in varying shapes, sizes and colors, creating their own shapes and designs.

There is no doubt that the Unexpected Hill is a perfect spot to relax in the hot summer days.

Enjoy the Unexpected Hill which utilises the forgotten zone between the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens building and the street:

Weekly programs throughout the summer will offer a warm, welcoming environment for families. Here are family events, all free and with no need to book                                     

The Acrobatic City

Sunday 6 September 2015
2.30 — 3.30pm

6 Burlington Gardens

The show transforms the Hill into an acrobatic theatre stage with a spectacular display of movement and agility. This session will be run by professional acrobatic performer and theatre maker Matt Mulligan.


Drawing the Unexpected

Sunday 13 September 2015
2.30 — 4pm

6 Burlington Gardens

Let your imagination run wild at this drawing workshop run by Jeanette Barnes, as she guides you through this ceramic landscape to discover new aspects of the ‘Unexpected Hill’.



Ceramic Stories

Sunday 20 September 2015
2.30 — 3.30pm

6 Burlington Gardens

Come and listen to storytellers spin the ‘Unexpected Hill’ into a whole new setting as it provides the backdrop for tales, folklore and adventure, from past and future worlds, which will enthral children and adults alike.