Francis Kéré's stunning new pavilion opens in London

Berlin-based architect Diébédo Francis Kéré has unveiled his Serpentine Pavilion in London's Kensington Gardens. He is the first African to be commissioned for the project created annually by renowned architects.

Diébédo Francis Kéré's striking Serpentine Pavilion, unveiled Tuesday, was inspired by the tree that serves as a central meeting point for life in his hometown of Gando in Burkino Faso. In this way, his latticed, indigo blue pavilion seeks to connect its visitors to nature - and each other.

Culture | 07.04.2010

An expansive roof mimics a tree's canopy, allowing air to circulate freely while offering shelter against London rain and summer heat.

"In my village, during the hot day, everyone is gathering under the tree, you have the mothers, the fathers, the elders then the kids," Kere told AFP.

"I grew up listening to stories in my village and indigo blue, a natural color, is so important to the culture," he added.

Kéré is committed to socially engaged architecture and ecological design that is epitomized by his award-winning primary school in Burkina Faso.

Read: Art is part of development, says architect of Burkina Faso opera village

Read: Architect Francis Kéré to build huge mobile theater at Berlin's Tempelhof airport ramp

"My experience of growing up in a remote desert village has instilled a strong awareness of the social, sustainable, and cultural implications of design," he said in a statement. "I believe that architecture has the power to surprise, unite, and inspire all while mediating important aspects such as community, ecology and economy."

London Architekt Diébédo Francis Kéré, Enthüllung Pavillon Hyde Park

Diébédo Francis Kéré's Serpentine Pavilion draws on village architecture in Burkino Faso

The pavilion's design is a strong statement on architecture's ability to foster sustainability.

"The roof becomes a funnel channelling water into the heart of the structure," Kere noted. "This rain collection acts symbolically, highlighting water as a fundamental resource for human survival and prosperity." 

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Kéré, who leads the Berlin-based firm Kéré Architecture, is the 17th architect to accept the Serpentine Galleries' invitation to design a temporary Pavilion in its grounds.

His predecessors include Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

The pavilion can be viewed from June 23 to October 8, 2017 in London.


Exercise in keeping cool

With his first work, the elementary school in his home village of Gando, Kéré won the renowned Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004. The pressed blocks of earth he used in the structure absorb heat and lower the temperature inside. The large roof made of steel and concrete provides shade and allows air to circulate between the roof and the ceiling.


Lycée Schorge

The Lycée Schorge, a secondary school in Burkina Faso, follows Kéré's principals of ecological building, according to which he implements local materials and techniques. Kéré also insists on hiring local workers who employ simple tools. That way he ensures that his buildings are rooted in the local culture. Some 350 pupils now attend the Lycée Schorge.


Giving education a home

In Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, education is expensive and illiteracy is widespread. That is one of the reasons why Kéré wanted to make a statement with his modern Lycée Schorge building.


Combining skills

Here is another view of the Lycée Schorge. The students spend their breaks in the sunny courtyard, which is tucked in the semi-circle formed by the curved side of the building. Here, the shade provided by the overhanging roof is also visible. The construction combines German engineering with African handicraft. Kéré studied architecture in Berlin.


School extension

Just recently, Francis Kéré's school in Gando was extended. The building's roof is specifically designed to keep the interior cool in the African heat. Today, the architect manages project the world over - from Burkina Faso to India. He is also increasingly in demand in Europe. In Berlin, he has been commissioned to turn a disused airplane hangar into a mobile theater.


Kéré's unique approach

Francis Kéré seeks to combine the cultural influences of his home country, Burkina Faso, with his academic experience at the Technical University in Berlin. The current exhibition at Munich's Neue Pinakothek museum, "Radically Simple," pays tribute to the 52-year-old's extraordinary talent among today's architects.


Beyond song at the opera village

The interdisciplinary opera village project in Burkina Faso was the vision of performance artist and director Christoph Schlingensief before he died of cancer in 2010. Kéré built the intercultural center near the capital city of Ouagadougou. Pictured is the health clinic at the facility.


A temple of architecture

The architecture museum of the Technical University in Munich is housed in the Pinakothek der Moderne. The differences between this building and Kéré's designs couldn't be more drastic. He is a master of simplicity. "Radically Simple," an exhibition of his work, runs from November 17 2016 through February 26, 2017.