Serpentine Pavilion 2017
June saw the return of the London architecture calendar’s annual staple, the Serpentine Gallery's Summer Pavilion. This year's design is by Burkina Faso-born, German-trained architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, and reflects upon his West African heritage. His bold, elementary aesthetic forms a striking juxtaposition with the pavilion’s serene surroundings, on the lawns of Kensington Gardens — but, seen up close, it is far more beautiful . Its tree-like form provides a canopy for visitors, encouraging them to congregate and socialise. The meeting place thus created evokes memories of Kéré’s childhood, and of a tree in his village where he would meet with friends. The latticed canopy above houses a central oculus, that transforms into a waterfall during the inevitable British summer rain; the rainwater is then collected, and used to irrigate the park.
This is all surrounded by series of open curved walls, made of indigo-painted timber batons in geometric patterns, which cast stunning shadows throughout the day — and make the perfect Instagram backdrop! The use of such a striking blue pays further homage to Kéré’s heritage. In Burkina Faso, it is regarded as a powerful, potent colour, worn on special occasions; when he won the Serpentine pavilion, Kéré explained, “I am going to wear by best dress, my best colour, and it is blue.” But the Pavilion’s pièce de résistance is set to the side; an organic, pebble-like slide in milled plywood, which has a constant stream of children (and adults) waiting their turn. It is, quite simply, stunning.