Gando Primary School Extension (Courtesy of Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk)
Gando Primary School Extension (Courtesy of Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk)

The Hyatt Foundation announced Diébédo Francis Kéré, architect, educator and social activist, as the 2022 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He is the 51st recipient of the Prize and the first Black. 

Born in Gando, Burkina Faso, and based in Berlin, Germany, the architect known as Francis Kéré is noted for empowering and transforming communities through architecture. 

“I am hoping to change the paradigm, push people to dream and undergo risk,” Kéré said. “It is not because you are rich that you should waste material. It is not because you are poor that you should not try to create quality.”

“Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury, and everyone deserves comfort. We are interlinked and concerns in climate, democracy and scarcity are concerns for us all.”

Kéré’s work includes contemporary school institutions, health facilities, professional housing, civic buildings and public spaces, often in places where resources are fragile. 

Many of Kéré’s built works are in Africa, including the Republic of Benin, Burkino Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo, and Sudan. 

In addition, pavilions and installations have been created in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Kéré’s designs in and outside of Africa are influenced by his upbringing and experiences in Gando.

For example, the West African tradition of communing under a sacred tree to exchange ideas, narrate stories, celebrate, and assemble is recurrent throughout his works. 

He also uses light as an integral part of his work, where rays of sun filter into buildings, courtyards and intermediary spaces, overcoming harsh midday conditions to offer places of serenity or gathering.

Some of Kéré’s most recent works include Sarbalé Ke at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (2019), which translates to “House of Celebration” in Kéré’s native Bissa language and references the hollowing baobab tree’s shape revered in his homeland for its medicinal properties. 

The Serpentine Pavilion (2017) is in the shape of a tree. Its disconnected yet curved walls are formed by triangular indigo modules, a color representing strength in Kéré’s culture and, more personally, a blue boubou garment worn by the architect as a child. 

The detached roof resonates with his buildings in Africa, but inside the pavilion, rainwater funnels into the center of the structure, highlighting water scarcity experienced worldwide. 

The Benin National Assembly in Porto-Novo, Republic of Benin, currently under construction and situated on a public park, is inspired by the palaver tree. 

Parliament will convene on the inside; citizens may assemble under the vast shade at the base of the building.

Significant works of Kéré also include Xylem at Tippet Rise Art Centre (2019, Montana), Léo Doctors’ Housing (2019, Léo, Burkina Faso), Lycée Schorge Secondary School (2016, Koudougou, Burkina Faso), the National Park of Mali (2010, Bamako, Mali) and Opera Village (Phase I, 2010, Laongo, Burkina Faso).

The Hyatt Foundation said through Kéré’s commitment to social justice and engagement and intelligent use of local materials, he brings architecture and infrastructure to marginalized countries lacking such systems. 

“Francis Kéré is pioneering architecture – sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants – in lands of extreme scarcity,” Tom Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, said. 

“He is equally architect and servant, improving upon the lives and experiences of countless citizens in a region of the world that is at times forgotten. Through buildings that demonstrate beauty, modesty, boldness and invention, and by the integrity of his architecture and geste, Kéré gracefully upholds the mission of this Prize.”

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Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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