A pioneer of sustainable constructions serving the population, such as the school in his village in Burkina Faso, the architect Diébédo Francis Kéré was awarded the Pritzker Prize on Tuesday, becoming the first African to receive the highest honor in the profession.
“Through his commitment to social justice and the intelligent use of local materials to adapt and respond to the natural climate, he works in marginalized countries, where constraints and difficulties are many and where architecture and infrastructure are lacking”explained the organizers of the Pritzker Prize in a press release.
It is the first time that an architect from an African country receives the award that has already crowned the greatest names in this art, such as Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid or Jean Nouvel.
He is best known for his involvement in projects with great potential for public use, such as schools, and many of Kéré’s works are located on the African continent, notably in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya and Mozambique.
But the 57-year-old architect, who also has German nationality, has long been internationally recognized and has also been commissioned for pavilions and installations in Europe and the United States. In 2004 he had already received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
“He builds contemporary educational institutions, health facilities, professional housing, public buildings and public spaces, often in countries where resources are fragile and brotherhood is vital”adds the Pritzker Prize, awarded by the Hyatt Foundation.
One of his showpieces is the primary school in Gando, the Burkinabè village where he was born and where he has carried out other projects.
To the organizers of the Pritzker Prize, this school “lays the foundation of his ideology: to build a resource with and for a community to meet an essential need and to correct social inequalities”† The school was designed to withstand the heat and limited resources and its success has led to the expansion, construction of teachers’ residences and a new library. Always with the same guideline, sober buildings in warm tones, sand or ochre, that fit into the landscape and where light is crucial.
“I hope to change the paradigm, get people to dream and take risks. Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you should waste material. Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trying to create quality”says Francis Kéré, in the Pritzker Prize press release.
“Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury and everyone deserves comfort. We are connected and concerns about climate, democracy and scarcity concern us all.”adds the one who spends his time halfway between Berlin and his native Burkina Faso.
One of his achievements is the renovation of Mali’s National Park in Bamako.
Last year, the Pritzker Prize was awarded to the French Jean-Philippe Vassal and Anne Lacaton, apostles of an architecture committed to the well-being of the greatest number, combining generous spaces with modest budgets and ecological techniques.