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Diébédo Francis Kéré

Principal Kéré Architecture


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This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré, has been unveiled in London’s Hyde Park.

Speaking to CLAD, the architect said the high-profile commission had given him an “exciting opportunity to explore new ideas, new ways of shaping space, new materials and new ways of using materials.”

His pavilion, designed “to bring a sense of light and life” to the park, was inspired by the tree that serves as a central meeting point for life in his hometown of Gando, Burkina Faso.

To mimic the tree’s canopy, Kéré visualised an expansive timber roof supported by a central latticed steel framework, which allows air to circulate freely while offering shelter against London rain and summer heat.

An oculus funnels rainwater collected on the roof to create a waterfall effect into an open courtyard below, which is set above a hidden underground storage tank.

There are four separate entry points into the pavilion, and the structure’s bright indigo walls – formed of inverted wooden triangles – are angled so as to let daylight flood in.

“From the very start, it was always my idea to focus on the figure of the tree in the landscape, and design something around community gathering,” Kéré said. “We really pushed that concept as much as we could.”

The architect, who leads the Berlin-based practice Kéré Architecture, was chosen in part for his commitment to socially engaged and ecological design, and this is reflected in the programme of events taking place in the pavilion, including seminars exploring questions of community and rights to the city.

“Well designed public spaces, where we can all meet and come together, are the foundation of a healthy society,” he said. “The value [such spaces] give to a community cannot be measured by money, which is why it’s very important to think how we can create more.

“It’s amazing to see the diversity of people living here in London. It’s amazing if you can have structures that bring them all together.”

In a joint statement, Serpentine artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO Yana Peel described the pavilion as “a space of conversation, collaboration and exchange.”

Technical consultant David Glover, fabrication firm Stage One and engineers AECOM collaborated with the Kéré team on the project, which remains open until 8 October 2017.

The Serpentine Pavilion programme, which began in 2000 with a structure created by the late Zaha Hadid, sees an architect who has never built in the UK create a temporary summer structure in the park’s Kensington Gardens. Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, Sou Fujimoto, SANAA and Bjarke Ingels Group are among the international architects to have previously taken part.

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CLAD people: Diébédo Francis Kéré
Francis Kere on how his home country inspired his Serpentine Pavilion