Francis Kéré becomes First African Architect to Design Serpentine Pavilion

Featured Video Play Icon

Debedo Francis Kéré has been recently selected as the first African architect to design the annual Serpentine Galleries pavilion. Since its launch in 2000, this annual commission has become one of the most anticipated events in the global cultural calendar and a leading visitor attraction during London’s summer season. The selection process was screened by Serpentine artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO Yana Peel with advisors David Adjaye and Richard Rogers.

Kéré’s approach is unique – he believes in building with materials that are available to him, yet he is not shy to take advantage of the newly available resources that such a project offers. This allows him to design a canopy that is similar to a hat worn by a Zulu bride – if you poke an opening on top. This saucer-like design allows the structure to capture rain-water and spill it inside the structure like an upside-down fountain.

According to Francis Kéré, “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.”

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.

Debedo Francis Kéré was born in 1965 in Gando, Burkino Faso. He trained at the Technical University of Berlin and is the principal architect at Kéré Architecture in 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 Gold award (2011 and 2012); Green Planet Architects award (2013); Schelling Architecture Foundation award (2014) and the Kenneth Hudson award – European Museum of the Year (2015).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *