MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
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
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