Get To Know Diébédo Francis Kéré, The First Black Architect To Win The Pritzker Prize In Its 43-Year History

Francis Kéré. Photo credit: Erik Petersen, Courtesy of Tippet Rise Center

 

Diébédo Francis Kéré rose from humble beginnings to become an award-winning international architect known for his innovative, sustainable, and spectacular building structures and designs. Francis Kéré became the first Black person to receive the prestigious Pritzker Prize, also known as the “Nobel Prize” for Architecture, in 2022.

Francis Kéré was born on April 10, 1965, in Gando, Boulgou Province, Upper Volta (present-day Burkina Faso). His father, the village Chief at the time, wanted his eldest son to learn how to read, write, and translate letters for him.

Because there was no school in Gando, Kéré moved to the city at the age of seven to live with his uncle. After finishing high school, he went to work as a carpenter. Fortunately for him, he received a scholarship from the Carl Duisberg Society to participate in an apprentice program in Germany, which changed his life. He finished his apprenticeship and enrolled in the Technical University of Berlin to study architecture, graduating in 2014.

His affection for his childhood community endured, and he maintained a strong desire to develop his village and provide opportunities for others throughout his studies. While still a student, he founded Schulbausteine für Gando e.V, loosely translated as “building blocks for Gando” (now known as Kéré Foundation). He began fundraising to advocate for a better environment for the children in his community, culminating in his first building construction of a primary school in his hometown while still enrolled at the Technical University of Berlin.

Using his skills, knowledge, and experience, he mobilized his community’s labor and materials to build a school he never had in Gando. His contribution to his community earned him the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004 and prompted him to establish his firm, ‘Kere Architecture,’ in Berlin, Germany, in 2005.

Kéré began construction on Gando Secondary School, a building complex designed to house approximately 1000 students, in 2011. Francis Kéré continues to build community projects in Gando and hopes to give back even more to his people.

 

Village Opera @ Francis Kéré (8)

 

Kéré has built 61 projects in his career, including 37 buildings, 19 designs, and 5 knowledge creations. Mali National Park, Léo Surgical Clinic and Health Center (Burkina Faso), Serpentine Pavilion (London), Xylem Pavilion (USA), Burkina Faso National Assembly, Benin National Assembly, and many more are among the projects. He has won several awards for his use of local resources in his construction projects.

Francis Kéré has lectured at the Technical University of Berlin, Washington University, the University of Texas, the University of Wisconsin, Harvard University, the Technical University of Munich, the Yale School of Architecture, and the Bauhaus University in Germany.

He was named one of the 100 Most Influential Africans by the New African Magazine.

At the intersection of utopia and pragmatism we create contemporary architecture that feeds the imagination with an afro-futurist vision. Informed by tradition, our practice explores new modes of construction for which the foundations have long been laid. Innovative uses of local resources and participatory design methods allow us to work beyond the boundaries of most established design practices and shed dominant norms to set our own precedents.” – Kéré Architecture.

 

 

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