Tree that serves as meeting point in Burkina Faso village inspires design for Serpentine Pavilion

Francis Kéré has been chosen to design the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Park and has submitted a design inspired by a tree in his home village of Gando, Burkina Faso.

Inspired by nature: The centre of Kéré's Pavillion design. Image: Francis Kéré/Serpentine Gallery
Inspired by nature: The centre of Kéré's Pavillion design. Image: Francis Kéré/Serpentine Gallery

The award-winning designer is the 17th architect and the first African chosen for the project, which gives a commission to a different international architect each year who has not yet had a structure built in London.

Inspired by the tree that serves as a central meeting point for life in his home village of Gando, Kéré has designed a responsive pavilion that seeks to connect its visitors to nature and each other. An expansive roof, supported by a central steel framework, mimics a tree’s canopy, allowing air to circulate freely while offering shelter against London rain and summer heat.

Kéré’s design engages with the ever-changing British weather in creative ways. The Pavilion has four separate entry points with an open air courtyard in the centre, where visitors can sit and relax during sunny days. In the case of rain, an oculus funnels any water that collects on the roof into a waterfall effect, before it is evacuated through a drainage system in the floor for later use in irrigating the park. Both the roof and wall system are made from wood. By day, they act as solar shading, creating pools of dappled shadows. By night, the walls become a source of illumination as small perforations twinkle with the movement and activity from inside.

In his submission, Kéré said the combination of these two features "promotes a sense of freedom and community, like the shade of the tree a branch, the Pavilion becomes a place where people can gather and share their daily experiences".

Building on these ideas, Kéré’s Serpentine Pavilion will host a programme of events exploring questions of community and rights to the city, as well as the continuation of Park Nights, the Serpentine’s public performance series, supported by COS. Now in its third year, Build Your Own Pavilion, the digital platform and nationwide architecture campaign supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, will invite young people to consider the relationship between architecture and public space, to ask critical questions about the future of their cities and to design the cities in which they would like to live.

Since its launch in 2000, the questions of who would win the annual Serpentine Gallery commission has been eagerly anticipated. Previous commission winners have included Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Kunlé Adeyemi, Barkow Leibinger, Yona Friedman and Asif Khan.


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