Diébédo Francis Kéré, the award-winning architect from Gando, Burkina Faso, has been commissioned to design the Serpentine Pavilion 2017, responding to the brief with a bold, innovative structure that brings his characteristic sense of light and life to the lawns of Kensington Gardens.
Kéré, who leads the Berlin-based practice Kéré Architecture, is the seventeenth architect to accept the Serpentine Galleries’ invitation to design a temporary Pavilion in its grounds. Since its launch in 2000, this annual commission of an international architect to build his or her first structure in London at the time of invitation has become one of the most anticipated events in the global cultural calendar and a leading visitor attraction during London’s summer season.
The annual Serpentine Pavilion commission has become an international site for architectural experimentation, presenting projects by some of the world’s greatest architects, from Zaha Hadid in 2000 to Bjarke Ingels Group in 2016. The brief is to design a 300-square-metre Pavilion that is used as a community hub and café by day and a forum for learning, debate and entertainment at night. Each Pavilion is sited on the Serpentine Gallery’s lawn for four months and the immediacy of the commission makes it a pioneering model worldwide.
Inspired by the tree that serves as a central meeting point for life in his home town of Gando, Francis Kéré has designed a responsive Pavilion that seeks to connect its visitors to nature – and each other. An expansive roof, supported by a central steel framework, mimics a tree’s canopy, allowing air to circulate freely while offering shelter against London’s tempermental elements.
Kéré has positively embraced British climate in his design, creating a structure that engages with the ever-changing London weather in creative ways. The Pavilion has four separate entry points with an open air courtyard in the centre, where visitors can sit and relax during sunny days. In the case of rain, an oculus funnels any water that collects on the roof into a spectacular waterfall effect, before it is evacuated through a drainage system in the floor for later use in irrigating the park. Both the roof and wall system are made from wood. By day, they act as solar shading, creating pools of dappled shadows. By night, the walls become a source of illumination as small perforations twinkle with the movement and activity from inside.
As an architect, Kéré is committed to socially engaged and ecological design in his practice, as evidenced by his award-winning primary school in Burkina Faso, pioneering solo museum shows in Munich and Philadelphia, and his immersive installation in the 2014 exhibition Sensing Spaces at London’s Royal Academy.
Building on these ideas, Kéré’s Serpentine Pavilion will host a programme of events exploring questions of community and rights to the city, as well as the continuation of Park Nights, the Serpentine’s public performance series, supported by COS. Now in its third year, Build Your Own Pavilion, the digital platform and nationwide architecture campaign supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, will invite young people to consider the relationship between architecture and public space, to ask critical questions about the future of their cities and to design the cities in which they would like to live.
“As an architect, it is an honour to work in such a grand park, especially knowing the long history of how the gardens evolved and changed into what we see today”, explains architect Diébédo Francis Kéré. “Every path and tree, and even the Serpentine lake, were all carefully designed. I am fascinated by how this artificial landscape offered a new way for people in the city to experience nature. In Burkina Faso, I am accustomed to being confronted with climate and natural landscape as a harsh reality. For this reason, I was interested in how my contribution to this Royal Park could not only enhance the visitor’s experience of nature, but also provoke a new way for people to connect with each other.”
About the Architect
Diébédo Francis Kéré is the principal architect at Kéré Architecture based in Berlin, founded in 2005. Kéré was born in 1965 in Gando, Burkina Faso, west Africa and trained at the Technical University of Berlin.
Kéré Architecture has been recognised nationally and internationally with awards including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (2004) for his first building, a primary school in Gando, Burkina Faso; LOCUS Global Award for Sustainable Architecture (2009); Global Holcim Award Gold (2011 and 2012); Green Planet Architects Award (2013); Schelling Architecture Foundation Award (2014) and the Kenneth Hudson Award – European Museum of the Year (2015).
Projects undertaken by Francis Kéré span countries including Burkina Faso, Mali, China, Mozombique, Kenya, Togo, Sudan, Germany, and Switzerland. He has taught internationally including the Technical University of Berlin and he has held professorships at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Accademia di Architettura di Mendriso in Switzerland.
Kéré’s work has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions: Radically Simple at the Architecture Museum in Munich (2016) and The Architecture of Francis Kéré: Building for Community, Philadelphia Museum of Art (2016). His work has also been selected for group exhibitions Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010) and Sensing Spaces, Royal Academy, London (2014).