Today marks the official debut of Diébédo Francis Kéré’s spectacular rainwater-harvesting Serpentine Pavilion. The 2017 pavilion was unveiled on a perfectly sunny day – but when it rains the roof will protect protect visitors from drizzle while funneling precipitation it into a central waterfall and storing it for irrigation in the surrounding park. The pavilion is inspired by the culture of Kéré’s home village of Gando in Burkina Faso even as it plays with experimental construction techniques and embraces the climate in Britain.
Diébédo Francis Kéré, who runs Berlin-based Kéré Architecture, is the first African architect to construct a Serpentine Pavilion. Kéré cited trees as his design inspiration. The pavilion is topped by a massive canopy – visitors can walk underneath and be safe from the rain while at the same time experiencing the weather through a transparent roof and wall openings that allow the wind to blow through.
The roof is made of wood, supported by a hidden steel frame. Raindrops that fall on the pavilion are funneled into an oculus, creating a waterfall. Then the water enters a drainage system on the floor for use in irrigation later. The walls are made from prefabricated wooden blocks. At night the blocks create an intricate play of shadow and light as the gaps twinkle from movement inside the pavilion.
Trees offer a place to gather in Burkina Faso, and Kéré hopes his Serpentine Pavilion in London will also offer a space for people to visit and share their experiences. In his design statement he spoke of his aim for the Pavilion to “become a beacon of light, a symbol of storytelling and togetherness.” And in his video on the pavilion’s design, he spoke of his desire for the pavilion to be inclusive and offer a space for all.