The Serpentine Galleries will host architect Diébédo Francis Kéré (founder and head of Kéré Architecture) as this year’s Serpentine Pavilion designer, making the architect the first African designer invited to work with the British Institution’s annual project. Kéré, who splits his time between Berlin and his home city of Gando in Burkino Faso, has created a massive elevated canopy, much like the stretching branches of a tree, under which the Serpentine will host its annual series of talks, performances and other events.
Kéré’s work draws on the tree as a central meeting point for the lives of citizens in his home town. Its structure is created from prefabricated wooden blocks, built in triangular sections with slight gaps between, allowing a breezy, open-air atmosphere that nevertheless manages to conceal a spacious central hub. “In Burkina Faso, the tree is a place where people gather together, where everyday activities play out under the shade of its branches,” he says. “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 studied architecture at the Technical University of Berlin, and used his early experience to embark on a series of projects in Gando, expanding on simple materials to create flexible, adaptable structures that won him impressive recognition. As his stature has grown, he has continued to pioneer projects in Burkina Faso and elsewhere, designing much needed new structures for either free or at low cost. His work here seems to echo this practice, pulling on his unique space mediating between lives in Europe and Africa to open new dialogues, a purpose well-suited to the pavilion’s stated functions.