Francis Kéré Selected for Serpentine Pavilion 2017

John Hill
21. February 2017
Serpentine Pavilion 2017, Designed by Francis Kéré, Design Render, Exterior (Image: © Kéré Architecture)

Diébédo Francis Kéré – the architect from Burkina Faso who heads Berlin-based Kéré Architecture – has been commissioned to design the 17th annual Serpentine Pavilion in London's Kensington Gardens.

Unlike previous Serpentine Pavilions, when the announcement of the architect was not accompanied by a design (that came a few weeks later), today's announcement by the Serpentine Gallery includes Kéré's pavilion. He describes it as "a micro cosmos – a community structure within Kensington Gardens that fuses cultural references of my home country Burkina Faso with experimental construction techniques."

Further, "My experience of growing up in a remote desert village has instilled a strong awareness of the social, sustainable, and cultural implications of design. I believe that architecture has the power to, surprise, unite, and inspire all while mediating important aspects such as community, ecology and economy."

Gando Primary School Extension; Gando, Burkina Faso, 2008 (Photo: © Erik Jan Ouwerkerk)

Kéré is best known for a series of modest but architecturally stunning schools and other buildings in Gando, Burkina Faso. His ability to design a temporary installation was made evident in 2015 with a pop-up Camper store on the Vitra campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

Camper Pop-up Shop at Vitra; Weil am Rhein, Germany, 2015 (Photo: © Vitra, photograph by Eduardo Perez)

Kéré's description of his Serpentin Pavilion design:

In Burkina Faso, the tree is a place where people gather together, where everyday activities play out under the shade of its branches. My design for the Serpentine Pavilion has a great over-hanging roof canopy made of steel and a transparent skin covering the structure, which allows sunlight to enter the space while also protecting it from the rain. Wooden shading elements line the underside of the roof to create a dynamic shadow effect on the interior spaces. This combination of features promotes a sense of freedom and community; like the shade of the tree branches, the Pavilion becomes a place where people can gather and share their daily experiences.

Fundamental to my architecture is a sense of openness. In the Pavilion this is achieved by the wall system, which is comprised of prefabricated wooden blocks assembled into triangular modules with slight gaps, or apertures, between them. This gives a lightness and transparency to the building enclosure. The composition of the curved walls is split into four elements, creating four different access points to the Pavilion. Detached from the roof canopy, these elements allow air to circulate freely throughout.

At the centre of the Pavilion is a large opening in the canopy, creating an immediate connection to nature. In times of rain, the roof becomes a funnel channelling water into the heart of the structure. This rain collection acts symbolically, highlighting water as a fundamental resource for human survival and prosperity. 

Serpentine Pavilion 2017, Designed by Francis Kéré, Design Render, Interior (Image: © Kéré Architecture)

The selection of Kéré for the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion was made by Serpentine Gallery artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO Yana Peel, with advisors David Adjaye and Richard Rogers. Although Kéré is the first architect from Africa to design the pavilion (it is given annually to architects who have not built commissions in the UK), last year Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi designed one of four Summer Houses that accompanied BIG's Serpentine Pavilion.

Francis Kéré (Photo: © Erik Jan Ouwerkerk)

The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion, sponsored by Goldman Sachs, will be on display from 23 June to 8 October 2017.

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