Kéré to Design Serpentine Pavilion

Civic Tree


When he was 18, Diébédo Francis Kéré was awarded a scholarship to be a carpentry apprentice in Germany, but the fact that wood is scarce in his country, Burkina Faso, led him to decide to study something more useful: architecture. Now an internationally acclaimed figure with a practice of his own in Berlin, Kéré has in a way returned to his origins with a proposal for this year’s summer pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery in London: a wooden pergola surrounded by a strange blue fence and resting, as in a huge tree, on a disturbingly lightweight metal trunk. The tree metaphor is quite overused and the recourse to the empathic warmth of wood cannot exactly be considered daring. Yet in the hands of Francis Kéré both motifs – the metaphor and the material – remain effective, at least to the extent that, given the rather frivolous air of sophistication which typically accompanies the yearly Serpentine Pavilions, they remind us of the worth of simple things and point out the civic attitude and the contextual approach that lie behind every good work of architecture. Hence, over and above any awkwardness of form that the design may have, we wish the best for Kéré’s tree, which will officially open in June, in Kensington Gardens.

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