This year we congratulate Diébédo Francis Kéré on becoming the first African Architect to win the prestigious Pritzker Award.
Born in Burkina Faso in 1965, one of the world’s least educated countries, lacking in fresh clean drinking water, electricity and infrastructure, Diébédo Francis Kéré was the oldest son of the village chief and the first in his community to attend school. In 1985 Kéré received a vocational carpentry scholarship which took him to Berlin, Germany. And in 1995 he was awarded another scholarship to Technische Universität where he received an advanced degree in Architecture, graduating in 2004. Kéré founded Kéré Architects in 2005. Although based in Berlin, Kéré’s work took him worldwide completing projects in the United Kingdom, the United States and many areas around Africa and of course including his home country of Burkina Faso.
While studying in Berlin, Kéré started raising money to Build the Gando Primary School, in his home town, Burkina Faso. This was his first major project and held personal importance to him. Inspired by the terrible conditions he endured as a kid in class, Kéré used his newfound architectural knowledge to create much better learning conditions for the next generation. Built with the help of the local villagers, the School was completed in 2001, awarding Kéré with the Aga Khan Award for architecture in 2004.
Another example of Kéré passion for improving Burkina Faso schooling facilities is the Lycée Schorge Secondary School, 2017. Built just outside of Koudougou, Burkina Faso. Arranged in the shape of a C by 9 connected modules around a central courtyard holding classrooms, an administration office and a dental clinic. Constructed using locally sourced materials like the Laterite stone which is cut easily when removed from the earth and left in the sun to harden. The secondary facade is constructed of locally sourced Eucalyptus wood and wraps the 9 modules. This area between the main building and the Eucalyptus creates a nice cool ventilated area for students to relax between classes.
Something a little different designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré is the Xylem Pavilion. Built in 2019 for the Tippet Rise Art Centre, Montana, USA. The Pavilion, which is caved sinuously to blend in with its surroundings provides a comfortable place for people to come, converse, relax or simply sit in silence with nature. Entirely constructed of locally sourced sustainable pinewood felled during natural pruning. The process is used to protect the forest from parasitic bugs. Kéré stated on social media that no healthy trees were felled or damaged during the construction of the Xylem Pavilion.
To mark the 50th Anniversary of Mali’s independence, Kéré took on the task of refurbishing the reopening of the National Park of Mali, Bamako, located on a reserve of protected rainforest. Included in the monumental task were points of entry to the park, youth and sports centre, a restaurant, public toilets and Kiosks. Externally cladding with natural stone from the region and generous large overhanging roofs provide cool areas inside and outside.
Diébédo Francis Kéré is a well-deserved winner of this year’s Pritzker Award not only for his unique sustainable designs but also for his humanitarian work in Burkina Faso and around the world. Isabel Barros Architects would like to congratulate Diébédo Francis Kéré and wish him a long and happy career.