The de­signer of this year’s Sum­mer Pavil­ion, Diébédo Fran­cis Kéré, is the first African ar­chi­tect to build an in­stal­la­tion for the project, says Emma Levine

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Visit this sum­mer’s Ser­pen­tine Pavil­ion, de­signed by Diébédo Fran­cis Kéré; the Royal Academy of Arts’ Sum­mer Ex­hi­bi­tion and Som­er­set House’s Per­fume dis­play.

In the lush lo­ca­tion of west London’s Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens, the Ser­pen­tine Gallery has been fa­mous for its an­nual

Sum­mer Pavil­ion since 2000. Each year, an ar­chi­tect is se­lected to de­sign a be­spoke outdoor in­stal­la­tion that hosts the gallery’s sum­mer events, en­ter­tain­ment and dis­plays. One of the con­di­tions is that this must be their first London struc­ture. Past de­sign­ers in­clude no­table names such as Dame Zaha

Ha­did, Daniel Libe­skind, Ai Wei­wei and Os­car Niemeyer, who have come from coun­tries as di­verse as Ja­pan, Brazil and China.

This is the first time that an ar­chi­tect from Africa has been hon­oured for the project – and he’s thrilled. Hail­ing from the vil­lage of Gando in Burk­ina Faso, this is the first UK project for Diébédo Fran­cis Kéré (from 23 Jun).

Kéré takes a stripped-back ap­proach to his pavil­ion, re­flec­tive of tech­niques used back home but, of course, adapt­ing to our lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment. A huge wooden disc of tim­ber slats ap­pears to hover from wooden bricks above the blue curv­ing walls, their tex­ture evok­ing the fes­tive cloth­ing worn in Kéré’s vil­lage. Im­por­tantly for London, the pavil­ion is rain­proof, but it al­lows nat­u­ral light to flood in through an ocu­lus in the roof, which is also bal­anced to fun­nel wa­ter that even­tu­ally joins a drainage sys­tem to ir­ri­gate the gar­dens.

Dur­ing the day, the roof and wall act as so­lar shad­ing, cre­at­ing dap­pled shad­ows, and by night the walls be­come a source of il­lu­mi­na­tion. It is cer­tainly strik­ing in its sim­plic­ity, and a far cry from the daz­zling colours and fu­tur­is­tic de­signs of pre­vi­ous years.

‘ The tree was al­ways the most im­por­tant place in my vil­lage,’ he ex­plains. ‘It is where peo­ple come to­gether un­der the shade of its branches to dis­cuss, a place to de­cide mat­ters about love, about life.’

Such is the rai­son d’être of the pavil­ion; it’s a com­mu­nity hub and café by day, trans­form­ing into an evening venue for dis­cus­sion, de­bate and en­ter­tain­ment. For the next four months, ex­pect a var­ied pro­gramme of events ex­plor­ing, for ex­am­ple, is­sues of com­mu­nity and rights, plus the pop­u­lar Park Nights se­ries with pub­lic per­for­mances. For full list­ing, turn to p. 43

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