Francis Kere, a Burkinabe architect, has become the first African architect to design the prestigious Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Central London.
Kere, who grew up in Gando, Burkina Faso, hopes to use this year’s global architectural and design event, running between June 23 and October 8, as a platform to discuss the impact of climate change and humanity’s communal responsibility in conserving the environment.
While growing up in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, the ever-encroaching Sahara Desert painfully taught him the impact of human activities on the climate.
It is from this experience that the 52-year-old architect decided to use his architectural expertise to construct an innovative primary school with traditional clay bricks.
The school has won him prominent awards, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and Global Award for Sustainable Architecture.
“Coming from a continent like Africa, I am accustomed to being confronted with climate and natural landscape as a harsh reality,” Kere told the Serpentine Gallery.
“I was interested in how my contribution to this royal park could not only enhance the visitor’s experience of nature, but also provoke a new way for them to connect with each other.”
Since 2000, the Serpentine Gallery commissions one of the world’s best architects to erect a temporary structure in London’s Kensington Gardens over the summer as part of the annual gallery exhibition.
Kere now joins the international group of celebrated architects, including the pioneering British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid and veteran French architect Jean Nouvel.
Humanity’s Reliance on Nature
Using his experience in one of the driest parts of Africa, Kere has designed a mammoth canopy with a large opening at the center to act as a funnel, collecting water when it rains.
The waterfall created by this funnel speaks to the importance of incorporating sustainability into modern designs.
Kere, who is currently based in Berlin, Germany, hopes to use the canopy, which depicts a communal space centered around a tree, to remind visitors to the park of humanity’s psychosocial reliance on nature – and not just for its resources.
The Pavilion has four distinct entry points with an open air courtyard in the center, where visitors can sit and relax during a hot summer afternoon.
At night, the open entry points allow light to escape, allowing the structure to serve as a source of light to the park.
“In my home village of Gando, it is always easy to locate a celebration at night by climbing to a higher ground and searching for the source of light in the surrounding darkness,” said Kere.
The award-winning architect has designed several magnificent structures using socially engaged and ecological design. He has pioneered solo museum shows in Munich and Philadelphia, including his immersive installation at the 2014 exhibition “Sensing Spaces” at London’s Royal Academy.