Diébédo Francis Kéré, an architect from Burkina Faso, has just won the prestigious Pritzker prize which some call the Nobel prize of Architecture. With this, Kéré is the first African to ever win such a prestigious award. He has held professorships at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Yale School of Architecture and the Swiss Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio. In 2017 he accepted the professorship for “Architectural Design and Participation” at TU München in Germany where he has been living since 1985.
A lot of Kéré’s work is focused on the African continent: parliament buildings in Burkina Faso and Benin, schools and health center in Burkina Faso, and the National Park of Mali. He has also worked on projects in Germany, the United States, and Great Britain among which is the Serpentine Pavilion in London. Light is at the center of his designs because growing up in Burkina Faso, sometimes in the classroom, it was very hot from the weather (Burkina Faso has few rains due to the proximity to the Sahel) and from so many children all bunched together, but there was not much light inside; plenty sunlight outside, no light and too hot inside. Growing up Kéré thought that he could improve the designs and make the life of children in his village and beyond better.
Kéré Architecture is currently working on a new parliamentary building inspired by the palaver tree. It is, he told NPR, a West African symbol of consensus building, and he hopes the building will reflect a commitment both to tradition and democratic process. “Literally speaking, it is a tree under which people come together to make decisions, to celebrate,”…
He told the Pritzker prize that, “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.”