FAIRFAX, Virginia — In 1985, Diébédo Kéré arrived in Berlin, Germany after leaving his home village of Gando, Burkina Faso to be an architect. Now, 37 years later, he has won the esteemed Pritzer Architecture Prize, an international award of $100,000 to an architect whose works have changed human lives and the environment. Kéré, despite living in Germany for so long, has never actually built anything in the city. Instead, he has created monumental feats for the people in his birth country which has landed him not only the prize but many thanks from the people in Burkina Faso.
Gando Primary School
In Burkina Faso, around 857,000 children and 942,000 adolescents are out of school, making it a country with one of the lowest rates of education. Kéré had the opportunity to attend primary school, however, he had to walk about 10 miles to the next village, according to Architectural Digest.
In 2001, Kéré built the Gando Primary School in his home village, a building that aimed to fix two major issues: lighting and ventilation. By using a mix of natural clay and cement, Kéré created a structurally sound school that would combat the country’s hot climate. Additionally, the architect kept a layer of brick between the ceiling and its tin roof in order to keep cool air in and provide natural ventilation, Architectural Digest reports.
Surgical Clinic and Health Centre
In 2014, in Léo, Burkina Faso, Diébédo Kéré built the Surgical Clinic and Health Centre in order to get faster medical help to people in the area. At the time, there was only one hospital, so he decided to build this facility to alleviate the pressure from doctors. The building has all the equipment for surgeries and has an in-patient ward and a maternity section.
Kéré went for natural clay from the local area to create the interior of the clinic and large tin roofs hang over the sides to protect from heat and heavy rainfall. Additionally, the architect built the Léo Doctors’ Housing next to the clinic, which consists of five apartments that local doctors can stay in to be closer to their work.
Lycée Schorge Secondary School
Lycée is the third most populated city in Burkina Faso, which makes the establishment of good schools in the area crucial for the children living there. Started in 2014, but completed in 2016, Diébédo Kéré built the Lycée Schorge Secondary School in the most eco-friendly and cost-effective way possible.
Kéré used locally sourced laterite stone to build walls, which is an easily mineable stone. The use of this material keeps the heat on the outside. To build the furniture in the school, Kéré went for local hardwoods and leftover material from the actual build, thus utilizing everything to its fullest extent.
Burkina Institute of Technology
The Stern Stewert Institute is an organization/school that is dedicated to empowering the people of Africa in terms of entrepreneurship, technology, and economics. In 2020, the institute collaborated with Diébédo Kéré to expand its campus in Burkina Faso to hold the Burkina Institute of Technology (BIT).
At BIT, students can study a wide variety of topics, stretching from computer science to mechanical engineering. It was important for Kéré to make sure that the interior of the building stays cool since all of the technology would go bad if overheated. To solidify this, Kéré created sturdy clay walls and placed chimneys on the roof to let hot air out. A rain collector was also placed to channel water so it is used for the mango trees on campus.
The college was awarded the title of the best university in the country due to its persistent drive for female empowerment, especially since over 300 students are women.
Diébédo Kéré is one of the greatest architects of all time, not just for his unique ways of using only natural resources and smart building designs, but for his loyalty to helping people within his own country live better lives. Over the years, he has created many primary and secondary schools, housing units, libraries, protective shelters and courtyards for people in Burkina Faso. Even though Kéré has already won one of the most prestigious prizes in architecture, we can be sure to expect more great things from him that showcase his love for Burkina Faso and immense artistic talents.
– Yashavi Upasani