Image Source: GiotMag
Francis Kéré left his family home at the age of seven to attend school since his village, Gando in Burkina Faso, lacked one. Thirteen years later, he travelled to Germany on a carpenter scholarship, dreaming of one day coming home to construct the classrooms that didn’t exist at the time.
Kéré succeeded in becoming an architect, and his first building, Gando Primary School, was completed in 2001. The initiative served as a launching pad for his career and continues to inform his values today. The 56-year-old has been acknowledged among the greats of his field after further transforming his community and other communities across Africa with his socially conscious designs.
The Pritzker Prize, nicknamed the “Nobel of architecture,” announced Kéré as its laureate for 2022 on Tuesday.
Keré became the first African architect to win the prize in its 43-year history, with a portfolio that primarily consisted of schools, health centers, and community facilities — projects that might have been considered too modest for a prize that has traditionally honored the designers of iconic structures. He ascribed his accomplishment to his community in Gando, speaking to CNN shortly after hearing the news.
“This isn’t only an award for myself,” he remarked over the phone from Berlin, where his firm, Kéré Architecture, is based. “This would never have been possible if I hadn’t had the fortitude to return home and convince my family to accompany me on the adventure to create the school that (started) my career.”
Kéré envisions a vision of architecture that simultaneously improves communities and answers to the climate issue by casting mud like concrete and embracing local resources above imported ones. As a result, the Pritzker Prize announcement on Tuesday is a vote of confidence not only for him, but also for “vernacular” architecture (designs that respond closely to local climates, materials, and building traditions).
Though Kéré has since worked on larger projects, such as large-scale campuses and two national legislatures, his methodology is still based on the concepts he established in Gando. The architect returned to his village with ideas for a modern and sustainable 5,600-square-foot structure after raising finances for the school from abroad. He recommended strategically positioned windows that allow indirect sunlight to penetrate while generating airflow that serves as natural ventilation, knowing that the town had no access to power or air conditioning.