Every year the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park delights us with a new, fiercely original Pavilion commission for the summer. So I was eagerly looking forward to the arrival of 2017’s design from Francis Kere, for the 17th summer Serpentine Pavilion and was not disappointed.
Kere is an architect from Burkina Faso, who has taken his inspiration the tree that serves as a central meeting point for life in his home town of Gando, a remote desert village. A large tree in any African village is an important gathering place, offering welcome shade and people sit under its protective branches to chat, to wait for buses, to have meetings and even school lessons. His pavilion seeks to connect its visitors to nature, and to provide a gathering place through its central meeting space. A wide roof, supported by a central steel framework, mimics a tree’s canopy, allowing air to circulate freely while offering shelter against London rain and summer heat. It’s been most used to shelter against the rain this August, an eventuality Kere had built into his design! He has used wood for the exterior walls and roof and the wood blocks of the walls are painted in a wonderful blue in shapes that catch and delight the eye. Small holes in the blocks of the walls bring in light, make the walls less of a barrier to the outside and make a dappled shade to those sitting to enjoy the space and to take refreshments from the cafe within the walls.
This pavilion has a light, open and airy feel with generous seating and good shelter. The blue of the walls contrasts beautifully with the green grass and trees of Kensington and after a couple of visits, I have decided it is one of my favourite commissions.
Every year the Serpentine Pavilion is really different in its design, have a look at the 2015 Pavilion.
For more information about the Serpentine Gallery and Pavilion, here’s their website: www.serpentinegalleries.org
Full disclosure: This is a free venue.