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10 things to know about Africa’s first Pritzker Architecture Prize winner

10 things to know about Africa’s first Pritzker Architecture Prize winner

“I grew up with local and traditional handcraftship. it has always been part of my life, so becoming an architect allowed me to use such knowledge to shape building,” these were the words of Burkinabè architect Diébédo Francis Kéré in an interview before he was named the winner of the 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Born in Gando, Burkina Faso, he is the first African and the first Black architect to win the prestigious prize, which has been awarded annually since 1979.

Kéré was recognized for his body of work that “empowers and transforms communities through the process of architecture.”

Pritzker Prize’s official Twitter page stated, “Congratulations to Francis Kéré, 2022 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize!”

Here are 10 things to know about the first African Architectural Laureate.

Early life and Education

Diébédo Francis Kéré was born on April 10, 1965, in Gando, Burkina Faso. His father, the local leader of Gando, wanted his eldest son to learn how to read and translate his letters, so he was the first child in the village to attend school.

Since schools did not exist in Gando, a small town with a literacy rate that still remains below the national average of 25 percent, he had to move to stay with his uncle in the city at the age of 7 years.

First scholarship

After finishing his education, he became a carpenter and received a scholarship from the Carl Duisberg Society to do an apprenticeship in Germany as a supervisor in development aid.

In 1985, he moved to Berlin after he received a scholarship from the Carl Duisberg Society to do an apprenticeship. He learned furniture and roof making while attending night classes.

College Education and First projects

After completing his apprenticeship, he was accepted to study Architecture at the Technical University of Berlin graduating in 2004.

In 1998, he formed the association Schulbausteine für Gando e.V. (now Kéré Foundation e.V.), a non-profit organization committed to construction projects in the village of Gando, with the aid of college friends. He launched his firm, Kéré Architecture, in 2005, and it now has offices in Germany and Burkina Faso.

In 2001, while still in college, he constructed his first building, Gando Primary School. The project received the Aga Khan Award in 2004 for works completed in countries with a large Muslim population.

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Projects in Gando

The collaborative processes Kéré developed with Gando inhabitants and the innovative, local, and ecological techniques and materials they created led Kéré to receive a Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2009.

So far there have been 8 major projects he has undertaken in Gando including Gando Primary School completed in 2001, Gando School Extension which was created due to the increase in population from the initial 120 to 700 after the completion of the extension, Gando School Library, Gando Teachers’ Housing, Gando Mango Tree Project, Gando School Garden and Well, Gando Secondary School, and Atelier Gando Developed in 2014 and still in construction.

Dano Secondary School

With three classrooms, a computer lab, and an office make up the structure, Kéré’s earlier work in Gando inspired the secondary school project in Dano, Burkina Faso. The excessive midday heat was a big issue once again, but this time there were different local resources available. The major building material was laterite stone, which is local to the area. The building’s east-west orientation reduces direct solar radiation on the walls, while the roof’s steep protrusion generates a lot of shade.

Centre for Earth Architecture, Mopti

The Mopti Centre for Earth Architecture, completed in 2010, is part of a series of projects, following the restoration of the mosque and the installation of a new sewerage system. The Centre is designed to be much more than an exhibition space: it is constructed using the same old building techniques utilized at Mopti, Timbuktu, and Djenné’s Great Mosques. It displays how material from the area may be utilized in a modern way.

Opera Village

The opera village “Remdoogo” is being built on a 12-hectare location near Laongo, about an hour’s drive from Burkina Faso’s capital and overlooking the Sahel zone’s West African scenery. Solar panels, a well, and a school for up to 500 children and teens with music and film programs are also planned, as well as a festival theatre, seminars, medical center, and guest houses. The festival hall, which houses the theatre, is at the heart of the project. The stage and auditorium were created and built for a piece of theatre in Germany, but they were never utilized again. The project was originated by Christoph Schlingensief.

Kéré’s 12 colorful Coachella towers installation

francis kere coachella

The project was named ‘sarbalé ke’, a phrase that means ‘house of celebration’ in kéré’s native tongue. the structures, some of which are taller than 60 feet (18 meters), were rendered in joyful colors, while their shadows provide valuable shaded spaces., light is another important component. According to Kere in an interview speaking about the structure, he said: “in my culture where there is no light, no electricity, if we see a light we watch it for a while,” kéré continues. “if it stays illuminated we walk toward it, and there will be a celebration,”

Benin’s national assembly building in Porto-Novo

francis kéré benin national assembly

Having outgrown its current location, Benin sought a new national assembly to embody the values of democracy as well the cultural identity of its citizens. in response to this brief, kéré’s scheme references the palaver tree and the region’s tradition of meeting under a tree to make decisions in the community’s interest.

Kérés 12 awards

This would be Kérés 12th award and maybe his most prestigious. Other awards include;

Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004, Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2009, BSI Swiss Architectural Award in 2010, Marcus prize for architecture and Holcim Awards Gold 2011 Africa Middle East in 2011, Global Holcim Awards in 2012, Schelling Architecture Award in 2014, Kenneth Hudson Award for European Museum of the Year in 2015, American Academy of Arts & Letters Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize, and Prince Claus Laureate Award both in 2017 and Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture 2021