Burkino Faso-born architect first African to win architecture's top award

2022-03-16 17:15:55
Burkino Faso-born architect first African to win architecture's top award

Burkino Faso-born architect, Diébédo Francis Kéré, has become the first African to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize, which is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture.

Kere, 56, a dual citizen of Burkina Faso and Germany, is the 51st recipient of the illustrious prize.

Most of Kéré’s built works are in Africa, in countries including Benin, Burkino Faso, Mali, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo and Sudan. He has also designed pavilions or installations in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, organizers said.

After receiving the award, Kéré, described himself as the "happiest man on the planet".

But his decade-long journey to the top of his field was far from straightforward, with limited opportunities in his village.

"I grew up in a community where there was no kindergarten, but where community was your family," he told the Pritzker Prize.

At the age of seven, Kéré found himself crammed into an extremely hot classroom with more than 100 other students.

As the first child in his community to have attended school, this experience of poor building facilities was his earliest inspiration to improve the educational lives of Burkina Faso's children, using architecture.

Years later and after studies in Germany, the dream became a reality, with Kéré designing a primary school in his home village of Gando as his first building in 2001.

It was built with significant input from local people, who contributed to the workforce and resources, according to the prize's website.

The success of the primary school earnt Kéré the Aga Khan Award in 2004, which is awarded every three years to identify building projects that address the needs of societies with a large Muslim population.

Kéré has specialized in designs for school institutions, health facilities, civic buildings and housing. “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,” organizers said.

Kéré's signature use of light is also evident in his design of healthcare facilities, such as the Centre for Health and Social Welfare in Burkina Faso's Opera Village, which is still under construction, according to the architect's own website.

Beyond his designs in Burkina Faso, the award-winning architect has also designed permanent and temporary structures across Europe and the United States, such as London's 2017 Serpentine Pavilion.


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