Serpentine Pavilion glows at night to “attract people to come and celebrate” says Diébédo Francis Kéré

In an exclusive Dezeen movie, Berlin-based architect Diébédo Francis Kéré explains how the colour of his Serpentine Pavilion and the way it lights up at night are references to his childhood in Burkina Faso.

Kéré’s oval-shaped structure features a courtyard enclosed by curving walls made from stacked wooden blocks, sheltered by a large, slatted timber roof.

The form of the canopy is informed by a tree in the village of Gando in Burkina Faso, where Kéré grew up.

“The pavilion that I was commission to do is inspired by a tree,” he explains in the movie, which Dezeen filmed at the Serpentine Pavilion 2017 press preview in London yesterday.

“Where I come from in Burkina Faso, a tree is often a public space. It can be a kindergarten, it can be a market – a gathering place for everyone.”

The intention was to create a structure that provides shelter, while allowing visitors to experience the natural elements, Kéré says.

“The idea was to create a huge canopy that allows the visitors to feel the elements but being protected,” he explains.

“It is enclosed by wooden blocks which are perforated and allow the air to circulate, which creates comfort inside.”

The slatted timber roof is lined with translucent panels of polycarbonate, to keep the rain off visitors while allowing light to filter through.

The funnel-shape of the canopy is intended to direct rainwater into a well in the centre of the pavilion, which will then be dispersed underground to the surrounding park.

“When the clouds are moving you will see them through the transparent roof protecting you against the rain,” Kéré says.

“Another thing that we wanted to explore is to use the canopy as a funnel to collect water. We wanted to get human beings to experience the elements but being protected by a good shelter.”

The wooden blocks that form the walls of the pavilion are a deep shade of indigo blue, which Kéré says has special significance for him.

“Blue is so important in my culture,” he reflects. “It is a colour of celebration.”

“If you had an important date in my village in pastimes, there was one piece of clothing everyone was going to ask for. So when I got the commission for the pavilion here in London I said: I am going to wear by best dress, my best colour, and it is blue.”

At night the pavilion is lit from within by strips of lights in the structure’s canopy.

“The inspiration here again comes from my childhood,” Kéré says.

“In Burkina Faso there is no electricity. At night it is dark. So what happens often is that young people go to elevated points to look around and if there is light, everyone goes to that place. There will be a celebration.”

“That is what the pavilion will be at night – shining to attract the visitors to come and celebrate.”

Diébédo Francis Kéré. Portrait by Dezeen

Kéré’s Serpentine Pavilion will be open to the public from 23 June to 8 October 2017. Until then, it is possible to explore the pavilion using our drone footage and 360-degree movie.

This movie was filmed by Dezeen at the Serpentine gallery in London.

All photography used in the story is by Ste Murray unless otherwise specified.

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