For the last seventeen years, one of the highlights of London’s cultural calendar has been the unveiling of the architect who will design the Serpentine Pavilion. Part of the Serpentine Galleries, the temporary Pavilion sits on the lawns of Kensington Gardens each summer. Carefully selected, the annual commission is awarded to an international architect to build his or her first structure in London. This year the honour has been bestowed upon Diébédo Francis Kéré. The socially and ecologically committed designer will be bringing his signature sense of light and life to the galleries and infusing Kensington with a touch of Burkina Faso, Kéré’s home country.
The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion will be in place from 23rd June to 8th October and will boast a distinctly natural theme. The temporary structure will be inspired by the tree that serves as a central meeting point in the architect’s home town of Gando. Kéré has designed a responsive building that connects visitors to the nature around them and each other. Mimicking a tree’s canopy, the vast roof is supported by a central steel canopy for air to circulate freely through the pavilion whilst sheltering visitors from the city’s elements.
Kéré has embraced the unpredictable British weather with his design. The pavilion will have four unique entry points, the central open-air courtyard is a space for visitors to relax in the shade, with the wooden walls creating pools of dappled shadows. On rainy days, an oculus funnels water that collects on the roof and transforms it into a spectacular waterfall effect. The water is then passed through a drainage system in the floor, to be collected and later used in the irrigation of the park. The Serpentine Pavilion is transformed again at night when the perforated wooden walls become a source of illumination, twinkling with any movement or activity inside.
The designer is committed to creating socially engaging and ecological structures and was the recipient of the LOCUS Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2009. This mindset is showcased in his most notable projects like the award-wining Gando primary school in Burkina Faso. Other key projects include two pioneering solo museum shows in Munich and Philadelphia. This focus continues in the design of the new Serpentine Pavilion, and the building will also play host to a programme of events exploring questions of community and rights to the city.
The ever-popular Park Nights, the Serpentine’s public performance series, will also continue, along with the Build Your Own Pavilion campaign. This campaign invites young people to consider the relationship between architecture and public space, ask critical questions on the future of their cities and the chance to design cities in which they would like to live.
Diébédo Francis Kéré follows in the footsteps of sixteen great architects including Frank Gehry (2008), Ai Weiwei (2012) and Zaha Hadid who launched the tradition in 2000. When asked about his first UK architectural commission he offered:
“As an architect, it is an honour to work with such a grand park, especially knowing the long history of how the gardens evolved and changed into what we see today. 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.”
A perfect spot to visit in the summer months, the structure will be one of London’s most talked about landmarks from June onwards. Read more on the environmentally and socially conscious architect and the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion on the Serpentine Galleries’ website.