The outstanding work of architect Diébédo Francis Kéré has developed in his native village of Gando, Burkina Faso. The guiding principle of Diébédo Francis Kéré’s work is ‘helping to self-help’. Focusing on climatic conditions and the reality of local contexts, the projects that he undertakes at his office in Berlin become full-size projects in Africa, involving the local people. The building sites become places for experiment where African know how is used to build intelligently. Kéré adapts traditional construction methods and invents designs whose simplicity, generosity and elegance possess a powerful sense of modernity. “My goal is to bridge the gap between Africa and developed countries, where, after all, building sustainably turns out to be something we have in common”. If traditional African architecture is naturally sustainable, in the western sense of the word, usually understood in the limited range of recycled materials and saving energy, the added value of Kéré’s work is what gives its full meaning to sustainable development, the development of the whole man for all men.
Christophe Hutin invited Francis Kéré to visit arc en rêve on 29 September 2009, in the framework of the exhibition entitled Christophe Hutin, construire librement, l’enseignement de Soweto. arc en rêve devoted a solo exhibition to Francis Kéré, Bridging the Gap / jeter un pont, from 13 December 2012 to 28 April 2013. Within this framework, on 16 May 2013, in partnership with LAM – Les Afriques dans le monde, a one-day event was organised entitled La ville en Afrique, miroir du monde, during which there was a public discussion between Diébéto Francis Kéré and Michel Lussault, geographer and president of arc en rêve. The written and audio transcriptions of this discussion are available in this dossier.
Official website : Kéré architecture.
Born in Gando, a small village in Burkina Faso, Diébédo Francis Kéré was the first son of the headman and thus the only child allowed to attend school. After graduating he received a scholarship for further education as supervisor in the context of development aid in Germany. Following the apprenticeship, Kéré studied architecture at the Technische Universität Berlin and founded his office Kéré Architecture and the nonprofit association Schulbausteine für Gando.
After University, he went back to his home country to reinvest his knowledge in his people. Kéré sets the main focus of his work on the usage and development of local materials and techniques, the adaptation of new technology in a simple way and the potential of the local community. Today, Diébédo Francis Kéré is an expert in preserving and developing traditional clay technologies and architecture heritage.
His first building, the Primary school in Gando was finished in 2001 and received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for its exemplarity as well as its concise and elegant architecture using basic, constructive instruments. The school is the result of a vision, initially verbalized by the architect and realised by the community. Meanwhile the « Primary school Gando » is completed through teachers housing, a library and a school extension. A secondary school and a women association center are currently under construction. Kéré’s work in Gando has been awarded with numerous important awards such as the Global Award, the BSI Swiss Architectural Award, the Marcus Prize and most recently the Global Holcim Award Gold 2012.
Kéré continues his work, promoting sustainable and community driven architecture, and the concept of development through architecture around the world. After being lecturing at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in summer 2012 Kéré began a professorship at Harvard in October 2012. Furthermore he has given presentations at multiple conferences and exhibitions worldwide. Since beginning of 2013 he teaches at the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio. On top of that he still finds time to go back to his community in Gando, and to take his projects forwards.