Meet 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, Francis Kéré, Burkina Faso-born black architect, in an interview about his architectural philosophy, with Louisiana Channel. As the official statement of the Pritzker Architecture Prize notes, “Through buildings that demonstrate beauty, modesty, and invention, and by the integrity of his architecture and geste, Kéré gracefully upholds the mission of this Prize”, continually “empowering and transforming communities through the process of architecture.”
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"I just wanted my community to be a part of this process," Diébédo Francis Kéré said in an ArchDaily interview published last year. It's hard to think of another phrase that so well sums up the modesty and impact caused by the newest winner of the Pritzker Prize of Architecture, whose work gained notoriety precisely for involving the inhabitants of his village in the construction of works that combine ethical commitment, environmental efficiency, and aesthetic quality.
Diébédo Francis Kéré founded his architecture practice Kéré Architecture, in Berlin, Germany in 2005, after a journey in which he started advocating for the building of quality educational architecture in his home country of Burkina Faso. Deprived of proper classrooms and learning conditions as a child, and having faced the same reality as the majority of children in his country, his first works aimed at bringing tangible solutions to the issues faced by the community.
The 2022 laureate of architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize is Diébédo Francis Kéré, known as Francis Kéré, Burkina Faso-born architect, educator, social activist, receiver of the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture and designer of the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion. Recognized for “empowering and transforming communities through the process of architecture”, Kéré, the first black architect to ever obtain this award, works mostly in areas charged with constraints and adversity, using local materials and building contemporary facilities whose value exceeds the structure itself, serving and stabilizing the future of entire communities.
“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,” explains the official statement of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Announced today by Tom Pritzker, Chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, Francis Kéré is the 51st winner of the award founded in 1979, succeeding Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal. Praised “for the gifts he has created through his work, gifts that go beyond the realm of the architecture discipline”, the acclaimed architect is present equally in Burkina Faso and Germany, professionally and personally.
The history and architecture of Burkina Faso is tied to its landscape. As a landlocked country in western Africa, it occupies an extensive plateau with grassy savannas and sparse forests. More than two-thirds of the people live in rural villages, and as such, the country’s modern architecture is the product of ingenuity born from reimagining traditional building materials and techniques.
As the legacy of the Cold War fades and Western preeminence gradually becomes a thing of the past, population booms in Asia followed by the growth of a vast non-western middle class have seriously challenged the Western perception of the world. The East has become the focal point of the world’s development.
If East Asia is the present focal point of this development, the future indisputably lies in Africa. Long featuring in the Western consciousness only as a land of unending suffering, it is now a place of rapidly falling poverty, increasing investment, and young populations. It seems only fair that Africa’s rich cultures and growing population (predicted to reach 1.4 billion by 2025) finally take the stage, but it’s crucially important that Africa’s future development is done right. Subject to colonialism for centuries, development in the past was characterized by systems that were designed for the benefit of the colonists. Even recently, resource and energy heavy concrete buildings, clothes donations that damage native textile industries, and reforestation programs that plant water hungry and overly flammable trees have all been seen, leaving NGOs open to accusations of well-meaning ignorance.
Fortunately, a growth in native practices and a more sensible, sensitive approach from foreign organizations has led to the rise of architectural groups creating buildings which learn from and improve Africa. Combining local solutions with the most appropriate Western ideas, for the first time these new developments break down the perception of monolithic Africa and have begun engaging with individual cultures; using elements of non-local architecture when they improve a development rather than creating a pastiche of an imagined pan-African culture. The visions these groups articulate are by no means the same - sustainable rural development, high end luxury residences and dignified civic constructions all feature - but they have in common their argument for a bright future across Africa. We’ve collected seven pioneers of Africa’s architectural awakening - read on after the break for the full article and infographic.