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The architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, who grew up in Burkina Faso and works from Berlin
Prof. Francis Kéré; Professor for ‘Architectural Design and Participation’, at the Technical University Munich (TUM). Photo: Astrid Eckert. Published by Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under a “Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported” licence.

The architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, who grew up in Burkina Faso and works from Berlin, will receive the Pritzker Prize 2022, the world’s most important award for architecture. With Kéré, who was born in 1965, the jury is honouring an architect who feels committed to African building traditions, sees himself as their advocate and promotes their forward-looking potential beyond the continent. Kéré’s cultural sensitivity, according to the jury’s statement, “not only ensures social and ecological justice”, it guides “his entire process in the awareness” that this is the way to legitimise and anchor a building in a community.

Even as a schoolboy, Francis Kéré spent weekends mending mud houses in the provincial capital of Tenkodogo. At fifteen, he began an apprenticeship as a carpenter and carpentered school desks. His path to architecture led him to Germany through a scholarship, where he first took his Abitur at a Berlin evening school and then began studying architecture at the TU Berlin in 1995. Francis Kéré graduated in 2004. By then, the story of his social architectural approach had already begun in his hometown of Gando with the construction of the Gando Primary School (2001). The school was the first project of the Kéré Foundation e. V., founded in 1998, and Kéré’s first building ever. The project exemplifies his idea of building with and for a community to meet basic needs and eliminate social injustice. The school building was awarded the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, one of the most important architectural prizes in the world. Kéré subsequently expanded the complex, finding new expressive possibilities with the materials and building techniques available on site. In the process, he developed strategies to adapt the buildings to local climatic conditions by means of overhanging roofs, wind chimneys or structures in front, and to counteract the heating of the rooms by means of natural ventilation.

Kéré also became known in Germany for the project of an opera village in Burkina Faso, developed together with the theatre director Christoph Schlingensief, who died in 2010. Internationally, he received a great deal of attention in 2017 with his “Serpentine Pavilion”. With this temporary building, which is erected every year in London’s Kensington Gardens, he joined the international architectural elite, taking the idea of a tree as his model and placing a wide-spreading wooden roof around a trunk like a crown. Rainwater flowed inside the pavilion, highlighting the scarcity of water in many regions of the world.

“At the intersection of utopia and pragmatism,” reads the Kéré Architecture website, “we create contemporary architecture that fires the imagination with an Afro-futurist vision.” In recent years, the architect has been able to realise projects in numerous, mostly African countries such as the Republic of Benin, Burkino Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Mozambique and Sudan. Francis Kéré, who criticises the arrogance of the West in wanting to apply its technological achievements one-to-one in all other parts of the world, has received many awards and has taught at the most important universities in Europe and the USA. His creative use of local building materials and traditional building methods, but above all his resource-saving construction and sustainable building technology have earned him much recognition in the Western architectural scene.

The Design Networking Hub

The Design Networking Hub is a digital knowledge and networking platform launched by the German Design Museum Foundation to support German-Kenyan cooperation projects in the field of design.

Funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, the task of this emerging design bridgehead is to initiate projects in the fields of architecture and design and to sustainably network creative minds from both countries and continents through concrete undertakings.

In order to make the information offered by the hub as user-oriented as possible, a pilot group of five young German and five young Kenyan designers and architects will initially work in small teams to develop new product and business ideas as well as non-profit concepts in the areas of mobility, living and digitalisation.

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