Serpentine Pavilion 2017 by Francis Kéré at Serpentine Gallery
The inspiration behind Francis Kéré’s pavilion at the Serpentine is a tree used as a meeting place in the architect’s hometown in Burkina Faso. It stands outside the Serpentine Gallery among the English trees of Hyde Park, complementing its environment while also setting itself proudly apart.
This is a structure that bridges cultural divides, designed to be equally at home in the scorching heat of Burkina Faso, and in the frequent downpours of the British summer. Its striking canopy-like roof seems to float freely above the circular walls. Its dappled shade offers respite from the sun, but it is also covered in a thin waterproof layer in case of a sudden shower.
Kéré’s design might seem a bit like a fairy tale – a magical faraway tree for the modern day – but it also exudes a sense of real presence and precision. It’s reported that the team of engineers and builders that puts together the pavilion every year was impressed by Kéré’s millimetre-accurate design, which uses geometric rigidity to create beautiful flowing lines. The design is deceptively simple; the walls and the roof with its open skylight are architecturally complex and finely balanced.
Inside, small chairs are scattered, providing visitors with a place to stop, rest and meet, just as they might under the branches of a particularly large and shady tree on a hot day. One nice feature is that the pavilion is also functional at night, when it is lit up from within and the lights twinkle through the perforated walls as people move about inside. It’s a place that is useable as well as beautiful.
Importantly, the space really will be used. Members of some of London’s community groups have been granted permission to use the pavilion to hold regular lunches, knowledge exchanges and meet-ups. Many of these are focused on helping migrants and occupiers of social housing, suggesting that Kéré’s pavilion is not simply an object to be looked at: it might well prove to be an important locus of social action and change.
Photo: Nick Bennett
The Serpentine Pavilion 2017 is at Serpentine Gallery from 23rd June until 8th October 2017. For further information visit here.