The prestigious Aga Khan Award winner Francis Kéré has won the 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture for his distinguished performance in the field. Jointly awarded by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Monticello and The University of Virginia, it is one of the four highest external honors, bestowed by the university among the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law, Citizen Leadership, and Global innovation. On March 26th, 2021, the Burkinabè architect received this award virtually for his innovation in construction techniques using sustainable, local materials and a communal approach to design. The UVA school of architecture will host a virtual public talk by the winner Francis Kéré on April 12th, 2021, at 5 pm, on Zoom, in honor of the recognition.

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Francis Kéré-news.virginia.edu

“UVA, Monticello Announce Recipient of 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture.” UVA Today, 26 Mar. 2021, ©https://news.virginia.edu

The UVA President Jim Ryan said in a statement.“I am delighted that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal will be awarded to Francis Kéré for his achievements in architecture during this unprecedented year, and I look forward to honoring Medal recipients in Law, Citizen Leadership, and Global Innovation in the near future. Although circumstances preclude a traditional in-person celebration, they do not diminish our admiration for Kéré’s innovative work and invaluable contributions not only to the field of architecture but to our society as a whole.”

In response to the announcement & recognition, Kéré told WAC, “I am deeply honored to be the 2021 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture, an award that recognizes the value of sustainable and imaginative architecture to society. It bolsters my confidence that there is space for an Afro-futurist architecture that is recognized and appreciated on its own terms. I strive for an architecture that can do good, and I am proud to be listed amongst the past winners, architects from present and past that I greatly admire.”

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“UVA, Monticello Announce Recipient of 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture.” UVA Today, 26 Mar. 2021, ©https://news.virginia.edu

About the winner

Diébédo Francis Kéré was born in Gando, a village in Burkina Faso, and grew up there till the age of seven, after which he had to leave the village to pursue his education. He studied architecture at the Technical University of Berlin and graduated in 2004. Even as a student, Kéré felt it was his duty to take care of his village and improve its condition, hence started raising funds to build a school in his village. He returned to his village with 50,000 USD and a vision to build using clay, which was the locally available material.

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Gando Primary School-www.behance.net

Behance. ©https://www.behance.net

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Gando Primary School details-pinterest

“Frances Kere Gando School | School Architecture, Traditional Building, Pavilion Architecture.” Pinterest, ©https://www.pinterest.com

The villagers were displeased with the latter notion as they believed that concrete was the suitable material to withstand the sudden rains and the harsh dryness of their climate. Francis Kéré convinced the entire village that clay was the best material for their climate and had to be used in the right ratio to form the best bonds. He used clay as concrete to mould it into the desired form. Multiple experiments helped him find the best recipe for the mixture. 

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Moulding clay-www.lafargeholcim-foundation.org

LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. “Secondary School with Passive Ventilation System, Gando, Burkina.” LafargeHolcim Foundation Website, ©http://www.holcimfoundation.org

The Beginning of Good Things

The construction of Kéré’s first project, Gando Primary School, was in 2001, while he was still a student. For this, the entire village of Gando helped him in the process of construction, as they felt it was their possession and worked together. In the process, the youngsters of the village were trained to construct such innovative structures and became skilled at them. Kéré made models to explain, to the villagers the construction process as they did not know to read nor write. This made them believe in the strength of clay.

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Models-youtube

Diébédo Francis Kéré: How to Build with Clay… and Community. www.youtube.com, ©https://www.youtube.com

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Gando School Library Roof Construction-www.archdaily.com

“Gallery of In Progress_School Library Gando / Kere Architecture – 4.” ArchDaily, ©https://www.archdaily.com

The unification of the village to build helped in faster construction and also imparted construction knowledge. To quote one example, the floor laying involves the crushing of stones to their finest size, and later smoothening them out using stones. The first step of laying the stones and jumping over them in order to crush them was usually done by the men. Later, the womenfolk hit the floor hard using bats, guided by the tapping music to crush them to a finer size. Finally, the floor is smoothened using stones to give a final layer. Apart from this traditional method that has been in practice for years, Kéré has taught new techniques for innovative construction, which the villagers will carry forever.

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Diébédo Francis Kéré: How to Build with Clay… and Community. www.youtube.com, ©https://www.youtube.com

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Womenfolk working-www.youtube.com

Diébédo Francis Kéré: How to Build with Clay… and Community. www.youtube.com, ©https://www.youtube.com

“Design needs to be embedded in the reality: the reality is the climate, the reality is the people”.                                               

~Francis Kéré 

Innovative construction methods

True to his knowledge and community, Kéré’s designs were dominated by locally available materials and created comfortable environments in harsh climates. The classrooms of the Gando school were almost 10 degrees cooler than the outdoor environment as they were built using compressed earth block walls and roofs and had a secondary roof of steel to take away the heat from the former by convective cooling. The School Library of Gando was innovatively designed using mud pots that were found in the locality. Light enters through the openings in the roof while keeping the heat away. The Teacher’s Accommodation building had rainwater harvesting features to be used during the summer season. 

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Gando Primary School Library-www.metalocus.es

Kéré has done multiple civic buildings and public projects apart from the school and is known for his selfless designs. Contemporary designs by Kéré are well received as they are done using sustainable materials and created with a great extent of innovation. The well-deserved success of Francis Kéré is the success of his entire community, for the love they have for each other. The 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture has been awarded to the finest of the finest, customarily.

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Xylem Pavilion-www.worldarchitecture.org

“Francis Kéré Announced as the Recipient of 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture.” World Architecture Community, ©https://worldarchitecture.org

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Serpentine Pavilion-www.lafargeholcim-foundation.org

Reference links

“Kéré Foundation e. V. – Collaboration.” Kéré Foundation e. V. – Kéré Foundation, https://www.kerefoundation.com/en/practices/collaboration. 

“UVA, Monticello Announce Recipient of 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture.” UVA Today, 26 Mar. 2021, https://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-monticello-announce-recipient-2021-thomas-jefferson-foundation-medal-architecture#:~:text=%E2%80%9CI%20am%20delighted%20that%20the,UVA%20President%20Jim%20Ryan%20said.

Author

Karpagam is a 3rd year undergraduate student who is very passionate about architecture and takes advantage of any opportunity that comes her way to build herself as an architect .She believes that through healthy discussions, critical changes can be brought in the society.

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