Diébédo Francis Kéré’s Serpentine Pavilion Unveiled in London
Serpentine Galleries director Hans-Ulrich Obrist talks about this year's project
An enormous circular structure fabricated with angular wooden beams takes over the pristine lawns of Kensington Gardens this summer. It is the creation of award-winning African architect Diébédo Francis Kéré for the 17th edition of the Serpentine Pavilion, selected through a competition moderated by a panel of architects, including David Adjaye and Richard Rogers. Mimicking a tree canopy in Kéré’s native Burkina Faso, it provides shady respite from the sun, and when it rains, a stunning waterfall cascades through the center.
The program invites international architects who have not yet completed a building in England. Highlights from the past include Zaha Hadid, Oscar Niemeyer, and Sou Fujimoto.
We talk to Serpentine Galleries director Hans-Ulrich Obrist about the project.
On the premise
“The idea has always been to have architects create their first structure in the U.K. Julia Peyton-Jones [former co-director of Serpentine Galleries] invited Zaha Hadid to do the first one in the year 2000. It’s interesting that in the beginning there were all these major architects who had never built here. Neimeyer, Gehry, Rem Zoolhaas. The Serpentine Pavilion was their first U.K. structure. It is such an important rule of the game. Considering the current situation in not only the U.K but around the world, it is so important to be open.”
On the selection process
“This year, we felt that it would be interesting to invite a limited number of architects to compete. We hoped that it would create a different energy, and it would open up the project to more voices. We also started a jury with David Adjaye and Richard Rogers. The process was an amazing experience that we will continue.”
On Diébédo Francis Kéré
“The way Diébédo Francis Kéré works with communities is very impressive. I was also drawn to the participatory nature of not only his buildings but his exhibitions. Usually architecture exhibitions are of a documentary nature—drawings, plans and models. But he did this amazing show in Munich last year, a blockbuster architecture show that had many interactive components. The way he brings people together is impressive. We thought what was most interesting about his proposal was the power to engage. He thinks about the social function of architecture and that seems very important in this current climate.”
Serpentine Pavilion is open to the public in London’s Kensington Gardens from June 23 through October 8 2017. serpentinepavilion.org