The Pritzker Architecture Prize, world’s the most prestigious award in the architectural community, that motives and encourages professionals to build their work by demonstrating qualities of talent, vision, and commitment.
Last year, the Pritzker Architecture Prize was awarded to Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, this year the bronze medallion is awarded to Diébédo Francis Kéré, Burkinabé architect who has worked hard to provide better infrastructural facilities across Africa and now leaving his footprints across globe. Apart from giving the world projects like Gando School Garden and Well, Dano Secondary School, Centre for Earth Architecture, Mopti, Kéré, has also worked as a lecturer in his alma mater Technical University of Berlin, and has been a invited as a guest lecturer at University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, visiting lecturer at Harvard and Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio. His architectural work has received national and worldwide recognition, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for his debut building, the Gando Primary School in Burkina Faso and the Global Holcim Award 2012 Gold.
“Through buildings that demonstrate beauty, modesty, boldness, and invention, and by the integrity of his architecture and geste, Kéré gracefully upholds the mission of this Prize,” stated in the official statement of the Pritzker Architecture Prize committee.
“I am hoping to change the paradigm, push people to dream and undergo risk. It is not because you are rich that you should waste material. It is not because you are poor that you should not try to create quality,” says Kéré in the Pritzker Architecture Prize announcement. “Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury, and everyone deserves comfort. We are interlinked and concerns in climate, democracy and scarcity are concerns for us all.”
Diébédo Francis Kéré, comes from a location, Burkina Faso, where basic amenities like clean water, electricity and infrastructure are missing from the lives of citizens living there. He was the first child of the village chief, who wanted Diébédo to learn how to read and write. Being the first to receive a proper education, he had to relocate himself to his uncle’s house, as his village,Gando, did not have an educational establishment.
He became a carpenter after finishing his education and earned a grant from the Carl Duisberg Society to do an apprenticeship as a development aid supervisor in Germany. He went on to study architecture at the Technical University of Berlin and graduated in 2004.
During his study, along with some of his friends he established the Kéré foundation, (earlier name Schulbausteine für Gando translating to Building Blocks for Gando) as a way to show his contribution towards his family and community that supported him. Once he finished his graduation, Kéré built the first school in Gando in 2004 and established Kéré Architecture in 2005 with a motive to give the infrastructure that he was not privileged to achieve.
The 2022 Jury Citation states, in part, “He knows, from within, that architecture is not about the object but the objective; not the product, but the process. Francis Kéré’s entire body of work shows us the power of materiality rooted in place. His buildings, for and with communities, are directly of those communities – in their making, their materials, their programs and their unique characters.”
Ideology and Philosophy
“He has served as a singular beacon in architecture,” said the Pritzker jury. “He has shown us how architecture today can reflect and serve needs, including the aesthetic needs, of peoples throughout the world.”
Diébédo Francis Kéré, an architect, social activist and an educator, built his every project on a simple ideology- to fulfil the basic needs and correct the social inequalities through the utilisation of local materials present in the country.
His first project, the Gando Primary School, became the pillar of this ideology, which he maintained throughout his career. The project had a checklist of parameters which included cost, climate, resource availability, and construction feasibility. Instead of being called a project, the school must be called an infrastructural sculpture, as it was made by combining modern construction techniques with abundantly available material, the clay.
Over the years, his works have created a massive wave in the sustainable development sector. His collaboration with the readily available material, clay, has also earned the title of “the material of the poor” in the architectural community. His way of looking at the projects has shown the world that not is impossible, when your will is stronger than the barriers.
“Architecture is primarily a service to humanity” says Diébédo Francis Kéré.
Some notable Projects by Diébédo Francis Kéré
As written in his website introduction, “At the intersection of utopia and pragmatism we create contemporary architecture that feeds the imagination with an afro-futurist vision”, Kéré, has provided the world spaces that are encourage young architects and designers to adapt, observe and appreciate the surroundings instead of utilizing foreign methods for a simple task.
National Park of Mali
Location: Bamako, Mali
Site area: 103 hectares
Kéré built a series of buildings in the National Park in Bamako, Mali’s capital, to commemorate the country’s 50th anniversary of independence, with the goal of unifying the neglected botanical and zoological gardens.
Each structure was built with natural stone and was meant to give plenty of shade for its visitors. The structures also include fitness, jogging, cycling and mountaineering tracks of varying difficulty and diverse interpretive awareness trails for botany, birds and nature.
Centre de Santé et de Promotion Sociale (Centre de Santé et de Promotion Sociale)
Location: Laongo, Burkina Faso
Centre de Santé et de Promotion Sociale or Centre de Santé et de Promotion Sociale, was established as a key component of the Village Opera project, which was created in collaboration with the late Christoph Schlingensief, and is dedicated to providing basic health and medical services to the local community.
While constructing the team also made sure that buildings are adaptive structures that included systems for passive ventilation, solar energy, and water collection and management.
Inspired by a tree, the pavilion features an oval shaped courtyard structure, enclosed by curved walls constructed with the help of stacked wooden blocks, and a slatted timber roof. The cancopy is inspired from the trees present in Kéré village.
“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” said Kéré.
The translucent polycarbonate panels on the slatted timber roof keep the rainwater off visitors while allowing light to pass through to give the space an luminating effect.
The canopy’s funnel design is meant to channel rainwater into a well constructed at the pavilion’s centre, from where the water gets dispersed underground to the surrounding park.
Startup Lions Campus
Site area: 1416 sq.mt
Inspiration can be found both in the sky or on the ground. For this structure, Diébédo Francis Kéré found his inspiration in the termite houses. The structure was built for a non-profit organisation, Learning Lions, who have made it a mission to train young Kenyans in information and communication technologies.
It’s made of locally sourced quarry stone and has a terracotta-colored concrete plaster finish. This method was chosen since it is low-cost and allows the local community’s skills to be utilised in its development.
Overall, Diébédo Francis Kéré, the man of simple ethics, gathers his concepts and materials, from observing the surrounding, this not only helps the community in having low cost structures, but at the same time employees local men giving them employment, economical helping the suppliers of local materials and showcasing the world, how local materials can be utilised in modern structures.