The Serpentine Galleries have announced that the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion will be designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré (Kéré Architecture), an African architect based between Berlin, Germany, and his home town of Gando in Burkino Faso. The design for the proposal, which will be built this summer in London’s Kensington Gardens, comprises an expansive roof supported by a steel frame, mimicking the canopy of a tree. According to Kéré, the design for the roof stems from a tree that serves as the central meeting point for life in Gando. In line with the criteria for the selection of the Serpentine Pavilion architect Kéré has yet to have realised a permanent building in England.
According to the Serpentine Galleries: “When the sun in shining, visitors will be able to find shade underneath the canopy, or sit and bask in the courtyard that surrounds it. But on wet days, rainwater will drain down through an oculus in the pavilion’s roof structure, creating a ‘spectacular waterfall effect’, before escaping down into a drainage system hidden beneath the ground. The structure will also take on a different character by night, when its wooden walls become a source of illumination.”
The proposed design for the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion is conceived as a micro cosmos – a community structure within Kensington Gardens that fuses cultural references of my home country Burkina Faso with experimental construction techniques. 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.
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.
In the evening, the canopy becomes a source of illumination. Wall perforations will give glimpses of movement and activity inside the pavilion to those outside. In my home village of Gando (Burkina Faso), it is always easy to locate a celebration at night by climbing to higher ground and searching for the source of light in the surrounding darkness. This small light becomes larger as more and more people arrive to join the event. In this way the Pavilion will become a beacon of light, a symbol of storytelling and togetherness.