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Westminster Council approves Kéré’s 2017 Serpentine Pavilion plans

Serpentine exterior crop
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Westminster Council has approved plans by German-trained, African-born architect Diébédo Francis Kéré for this year’s Serpentine Pavilion

In February Kéré became the 17th international architect selected to build a temporary structure in London’s Kensington Gardens.

He was chosen for the prestigious annual commission following a contest judged by, among others, Richard Rogers and David Adjaye. 

It was the first time the Serpentine has invited architects to compete for the installation. Previously the gallery has selected overseas architects to build their first structure in the UK.

Earmarked for a site in front of the Serpentine Gallery, this year’s design has been inspired by a tree and meeting place in Kéré’s home town of Gando in Burkina Faso. 

Kéré described his proposed pavilion as a ‘responsive’ structure that ‘seeks to connect its visitors to nature and each other’.

Supported by a central steel framework, the large roof will mimic a tree canopy and allow air to circulate freely; while offering shelter against London’s rain and summer heat.

A gallery spokesperson said: ‘Kéré has positively embraced British climate in his design, creating a structure that engages with the ever-changing London weather in creative ways.



‘At the centre of the pavilion is an open-air courtyard with four separate entry points, 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 spectacular waterfall effect, before it is evacuated through a drainage system in the floor and stored for later use in irrigating the park.

‘Both the roof and courtyard structure are made from panels of wood sticks. By day, these panels 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.’

Kéré, who runs Berlin-based Kéré Architecture, is best known for his award-winning primary school in Burkina Faso (see AR 01.10.09) and three years ago featured in the exhibition Sensing Spaces at London’s Royal Academy.

The 2017 pavilion follows last year’s ‘unzipped wall’ structure by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), which was visited by more than 250,000 people.

The pavilion sat alongside four commissioned Summer Houses by Kunlé Adeyemi – NLÉ (Amsterdam/Lagos), Barkow Leibinger (Berlin/New York), Yona Friedman (Paris) and Asif Khan (London).

The decision to launch an invited competition was announced by the Serpentine last year as part of a ‘new chapter’ in its development, which will see its two galleries in Kensington Gardens jointly led by artistic director Hans-Ulrich Obrist and chief executive Yana Peel.

Speaking about yesterday’s planning decision (18 April), Westminster City Council senior chairman of Planning Richard Beddoe said: ’The Serpentine Gallery’s annual summer pavilion is a great initiative, making a positive cultural contribution to our city.

’Emerging architect, Francis Kéré’s striking design will be a fine edition to the London art scene in the coming months with a unique canopy and a distinct African influence. We look forward to seeing the latest pavilion, long may this popular scheme continue.’

Previous Serpentine Pavilions

2016 Bjarke Ingels
2015 SelgasCano
2014 Smiljan Radic
2013 Sou Fujimoto
2012 Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei
2011 Peter Zumthor
2010 Jean Nouvel
2009 Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, SANAA
2008 Frank Gehry
2007 Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen
2006 Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond with Arup
2005 Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura with Cecil Balmond and Arup
2004 MVRDV with Arup (unrealised)
2003 Oscar Niemeyer
2002 Toyo Ito and Cecil Balmond with Arup
2001 Daniel Libeskind with Arup
2000 Zaha Hadid

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