Posted on: March 16th, 2022
Diébédo Francis Kéré, architect, educator and social activist, has been selected as the 2022 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, announced Tom Pritzker, Chairman of The Hyatt Foundation.
Diébédo Francis Kéré, born in 1965, Burkina Faso, a country with no clean drinking water, electricity and infrastructure, and one of the world’s most impoverished and illiterate.
“I grew up in a community where there was no kindergarten, but where community was your family. Everyone took care of you and the entire village was your playground. My days were filled with securing food and water, but also simply being together, talking together, building houses together. I remember the room where my grandmother would sit and tell stories with a little light, while we would huddle close to each other and her voice inside the room enclosed us, summoning us to come closer and form a safe place. This was my first sense of architecture.”
Kéré founded his practice, Kéré Architecture GmbH, in Berlin, and a Non-profit Organization, Kéré Foundation e.V., in 2005, in Gando, Burkina Faso. He has won the 51st Pritzker Architecture Award 2022, Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, Global Holcim Award Gold, BSI Swiss Architecture Award, Schelling Architecture Award, Arnold W Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture for his projects.
Francis Kéré empowers and transforms communities through the process of architecture. Through his commitment to social justice and engagement, and intelligent use of local materials to connect and respond to the natural climate, he works in marginalized countries laden with constraints and adversity, where architecture and infrastructure are absent. Building contemporary school institutions, health facilities, professional housing, civic buildings and public spaces, oftentimes in lands where resources are fragile and fellowship is vital, the expression of his works exceeds the value of a building itself.
Francis Kéré’s first project, the Gando Primary School, designed in 2001, has won the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture and 2009 Global Award for Sustainable Architecture. He designed it while still a student at the Technical University of Berlin. He raised funds through Kéré Foundation e.V. and worked closely with the local population throughout the building process. He used traditional building techniques with modern construction methods to resolve major issues with the limited network of schools in Boulgou.
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.”
The national confidence and embrace of Kéré has prompted one of the architect’s most pivotal and ambitious projects, the National Assembly of Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso), which was commissioned, although remains unbuilt amidst present uncertain times. After the Burkinabè uprising in 2014 destroyed the former structure, the architect designed a stepped and lattice pyramidal building, housing a 127-person assembly hall on the interior, while encouraging informal congregation on the exterior. Enabling new views, physically and metaphorically, this is one piece to a greater master plan, envisioned to include indigenous flora, exhibition spaces, courtyards, and a monument to those who lost their lives in protest of the old regime.
The Citation continues, “In a world in crisis, amidst changing values and generations, he reminds us of what has been, and will undoubtably continue to be a cornerstone of architectural practice: a sense of community and narrative quality, which he himself is so able to recount with compassion and pride. In this he provides a narrative in which architecture can become a source of continued and lasting happiness and joy.”
The impact of his work in primary and secondary schools catalyzed the inception of many institutions, each demonstrating sensitivity to bioclimatic environments and sustainability distinctive to locality, and impacting many generations. Startup Lions Campus (2021, Turkana, Kenya), an information and communication technologies campus, uses local quarry stone and stacked towers for passive cooling to minimize the air conditioning required to protect technology equipment. Burkina Institute of Technology (Phase I, 2020, Koudougou, Burkina Faso) is composed of cooling clay walls that were cast in-situ to accelerate the building process. Overhanging eucalyptus, regarded as inefficient due to its minimal shading abilities yet depletion of nutrients from the soil, were repurposed to line the angled corrugated metal roofs, which protect the building during the country’s brief rainy reason, and rainwater is collected underground to irrigate mango plantations on the premises.
Kéré’s designs are laced with symbolism and his works outside of Africa are influenced by his upbringing and experiences in Gando. The West African tradition of communing under a sacred tree to exchange ideas, narrate stories, celebrate and assemble, is recurrent throughout. Sarbalé Ke at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (2019, California, United States) translates to “House of Celebration” in his native Bissa language, and references the shape of the hollowing baobab tree, revered in his homeland for its medicinal properties. The Serpentine Pavilion (2017, London, United Kingdom) also takes its central shape from the form of a tree and its disconnected yet curved walls are formed by triangular indigo modules, identifying with a color representing strength in his culture and more personally, a blue boubou garment worn by the architect as a child. The detached roof resonates with that of his buildings in Africa, but inside the pavilion, rainwater funnels into the center of the structure, highlighting water scarcity that is experienced worldwide. The Benin National Assembly (Porto-Novo, Republic of Benin), currently under construction and situated on a public park, is inspired by the palaver tree. While parliament convenes on the inside, citizens may also assemble under the vast shade at the base of the building.
Many of Kéré’s built works are located in Africa, in countries including the Republic of Benin, Burkino Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo, and Sudan. Pavilions and installations and have been created in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Significant works also include Xylem at Tippet Rise Art Centre (2019, Montana, United States), Léo Doctors’ Housing (2019, Léo, Burkina Faso), Lycée Schorge Secondary School (2016, Koudougou, Burkina Faso), the National Park of Mali (2010, Bamako, Mali) and Opera Village (Phase I, 2010, Laongo, Burkina Faso).