Twelve cone-like structures in shades of rich dark blues, oranges and corals stand in sharp contrast to the green grass and the flat ground of the Empire Polo Club grounds in Indio.
The art installation from architect Francis Kéré, titled “Sarbalé ke,” has an almost organic look to it. Perhaps that’s the point: it’s supposed to be representative of a forest of baobab trees.
Sarbalé ke, in the Mooré language of Burkina Faso, means “the house of celebration.”
Kere said the trees in his home country are the site of gatherings and celebrations, in part because of their many uses as medicine and food for people and shelter for animals. He said people are drawn to them from far distances.
Kéré said he hopes people at the festival are equally drawn to his large sculptures.
“You will be migrating toward and trying to discover what is next and we want you to arrive and be squarely in the middle of gatherings,” he said. “And then you will have this huge trunk with a triangular shape and you’ll want to enter.”
The structures range in size from 9 to 72 fee and no one is a single color. Kéré said he liked the juxtaposition of warm and cool colors — indigos and oranges, blues and corals.
The cones have openings where people can walk inside sculptures. Kére said their attention will immediately be drawn to openings of the structures where light filters through. The effect is not unlike what someone would experience if they were in the inside of a hollow baobab.
The architect said a lot of time was spent working with Coachella’s team in three different locations — at the festival grounds in Indio, at his studio in Germany and in Burkina Faso. He said members of Coachella’s team accompanied him to his homeland to see the trees and just how striking they were against the landscape.
A lot of Kéré’s work was informed by his home country. He said he got into architecture because he remembers what it was like to learn in a poorly built structure.
“For example, I was sitting in a classroom with more than 100 other kids. We had very, very little tiny windows … And you had no light when the sun was shining outside and then we had a bad roof and the temperature was double inside than it was outside, so it was not a good place to teach kids,” he said.
Kéré said he decided to become an architect to make things better.
“And then create a better space to celebrate,” he said.
Kéré said he was inspired to build a structure on the polo grounds because “Coachella is a great event, a great celebration.”
He said he hopes people not only enjoy the baobabs in the moment, but also after the festival has concluded.
“We want them to take a very positive, colorful experience back home and dream about what they have seen,” he said.
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