Social Canopy

The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion commission has been designed by the award-winning architect Diébédo Francis Kéré. Hailing from Gando, Burkina Faso, Kéré is the 17th architect to accept the Serpentine Galleries’ invitation to design a temporary Pavilion in its grounds. Since its launch in 2000, the commission provides an opportunity for an international architect to build their first structure in London. Kéré, who leads the Berlin-based practice Kéré Architecture, was selected for the commission by Serpentine Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist and CEO Yana Peel, along with David Adjaye and Richard Rogers.

Breathing a sense of light and life into the lawns of Kensington Gardens, the architect’s design is based on a natural form, more specifically a tree that serves as a central meeting point for life in his home town of Gando. Adorned with an expansive roof that mimic’s a tree’s canopy, the structure encourages its visitors to connect with nature as well as one another. Whilst it is engineered with a central steel framework, the Pavilion provides a spacious shelter that enables air to circulate freely – ideal for the long summer months.

Kéré keeps in mind the changeable nature of the British weather and design caters for both rain and sunshine. Comprised of four entry points, the Pavilion’s core boasts an open air courtyard. Meanwhile, an oculus funnels rainwater from the roof into a stunning waterfall prior to storing it for irrigation throughout the park. The Pavilion will also host a new series of weekly community talks, titled Radical Kitchen, which reflects Kéré’s interest in socially-engaged practices. On eight Wednesdays throughout July and August, a different London group or campaign organisation will assemble in the Pavilion to share their recipes for creating meaningful social change.

Symbolism plays a key role in the Pavilion’s design, as does the architect’s experience of growing up in a remote desert village. Alongside the tree-inspired canopy, Kéré infuses the Pavilion with aspects of the social, the sustainable and the cultural. As with the coming together of people for an evening celebration, the structure also becomes a hub for storytelling and togetherness. At night, the canopy becomes a source of illumination and a beacon of light within the park due to wall perforations.

Francis Kéré, The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion, until 8 October, Kensington Gardens, London.


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1. Serpentine Pavilion 2017, designed by Francis Kéré. Serpentine Gallery, London (23 June – 8 October 2017) © Kéré Architecture, Photography © 2017 Iwan Baan.