The Serpentine Pavillion has become one of the most iconic events in London’s Summer diary. Every year the fore-space of the main Serpentine Gallery sees the installation of a new and temporary structure. A place for congregation, shelter and above all, somewhere that raises questions while we pause to rest.
The invitation to create a Pavillion is issued to Artists and Architects, who working with Engineers are able to create their own personal iteration of this annual landmark.
This year saw the Burkina Faso Architect, Francis Kere bring his homage to gathering spaces in Africa.
“The tree was always the most important place in my village,” he says, describing the inspiration for his design. “It is where people come together under the shade of its branches to discuss, a place to decide matters, about love, about life. I want the pavilion to serve the same function: a simple open shelter to create a sense of freedom and community.”
Instead of offering shade from scorching sun, Kéré’s London canopy is configured with rain in mind, designing the shallow saucer to funnel water into a central opening, where a ring of slender steel trusses will support the great wooden bowl. The space is circled by a series of curving blue wooden walls, in an African textile-like pattern, “I’m coming to London,” he says, “so I wanted to show myself with my best clothes.”
Unlike his normal Palette of mud bricks, often assembled by unskilled workers, Kere has translated his hometown materials to explore the opportunities London offered.
“I told myself, ‘Francis, don’t try to change yourself for this commission’,” he says. “Remain true to how you started, but do a little bit more. Here I have the chance to work with amazing engineers, so we can make the steel very thin and have an impressive cantilever.”
Eventually the Autumn will bring the closing and dismantling of the Pavilion, this is as important a part of the process as the assembly. It is important to remember that the brief is essentially for a Summer stage set that will gather crowds and promote thoughtful conversation. Like all the best gatherings the Conversation must move on and make way for other thoughts and ideas.
What of the structure once it has been dismantled. Usually the Pavillions are sold on to a collector but in this case Kere has other plans:
Staying true to his ethos and commitment to enhance and improve the lives of his home land Kere says, “The participation will happen when people come to take ownership of the structure, but I am working with partners to see if it can travel, and maybe end up in Africa as a museum or library.”
by K. Spence (HUB Director)