Tree-shaped Serpentine Pavilion by Burkinabe architect Francis Kere opens in London

Francis Kere’s tree-shaped Serpentine Pavilion has been completed, connecting its structure to the nature outside, with a press preview taking place June 20. The pavilion will open to the public on 23 June.

Inspired by the tree that serves as a central meeting point in his home town of Gando in Burkina Faso, the responsive pavilion seeks to connect visitors to nature and each other through a central courtyard in the, where visitors can relax and socialise.

All images: NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP/Getty Images.

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

An expansive roof, supported by a central steel framework, mimics a tree’s canopy, allowing air to circulate freely, while providing shelter from London’s rain or summer heat.

“In Burkina Faso, the tree is a place where people gather together, where everyday activities play out under the shade of its branches. My design for the Serpentine Pavilion has a great over-hanging roof canopy made of steel and a transparent skin covering the structure, which allows sunlight to enter the space while also protecting it from the rain,” he explained.

“Wooden shading elements line the underside of the roof to create a dynamic shadow effect on the interior spaces. This combination of features promotes a sense of freedom and community; like the shade of the tree branches, the Pavilion becomes a place where people can gather and share their daily experiences.”

Burkinabe architect Diebedo Francis Kere during the unveiling of his newly installed Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, during a press preview for its launch, in Kensington Gardens. NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP/Getty Images.

Kere embraced a positive approach to Britain’s weather in his design, where during rainy days, the roof structure will drain the water down an oculus which then creates a “spectacular waterfall effect”. The water then disappears into an underground drainage system, hidden from view.

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 my home village… it is always easy to locate a celebration at night by climbing to higher ground and searching for the source of light in the surrounding darkness. This small light becomes larger as more and more people arrive to join the event. In this way the Pavilion will become a beacon of light, a symbol of storytelling and togetherness,” Kere shared.

Kere is the 17th architect to design a temporary pavilion in its ground, located outside the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London.

Last year, Bjarke Ingels’ Serpentine Pavilion featured a structure out of fibreglass blocks, stacking them in such a way that the entire pavilion constantly morphed shapes as visitors moved around it.

Madrid-based architects Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano designed a “psychedelic labyrinth” pavilion in 2015.

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