The Pritzker Prize for Diébédo Francis Kéré, “afro-futurist” architect

The 2022 vintage of the highest distinction in the world of architecture was awarded this Tuesday to the Burkinabe architect living in Berlin. The award organization hailed her “commitment to social justice”.

Until now, the Pritzker Prize had never rewarded an architect from an African country. The highest distinction in the world of architecture was awarded on Tuesday to Diébédo Francis Kéré, a Burkinabé living in Berlin. The 57-year-old architect succeeds Frenchmen Jean-Philippe Vassal and Anne Lacaton, winners last year. The origin of Diébédo Francis Kéré, who also has German nationality, is not the only political dimension of this prize. Through it, the organizers of the prize wanted to reward “his commitment to social justice” and an architect who “works in marginalized countries, where constraints and difficulties are many and where architecture and infrastructure are absent”.

Many of Kéré’s works are indeed located on the African continent, notably in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya or Mozambique. And the architect is particularly known for his involvement in projects with strong potential for public use. “He builds contemporary educational institutions, health facilities, professional housing, civic buildings and public spaces, often in countries where resources are fragile and brotherhood is vital”, note the organizers of the Pritzker Prize.

An emblematic school in his native village

Like one of his flagship achievements: the primary school of Gando, the Burkinabe village where he was born and where he has carried out other projects. For the organizers of the Pritzker Prize, this school “lays the foundations of its ideology: to build a source with and for a community in order to meet an essential need and correct social inequalities”.

It is also emblematic of one of the characteristics of Diébédo Francis Kéré: “the clever use of local materials to adapt and respond to the natural climate”, as noted in the press release accompanying the award. The school is designed to withstand the heat and limited resources. Its success led to the construction of teachers’ quarters, the extension of the school and a new library.

“I hope to change the paradigm, push people to dream and take risks. Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you have to waste material. Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to create quality.”says Diébédo Francis Kéré, in the Pritzker Prize press release. Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury and everyone deserves comfort. We are connected to each other and concerns about climate, democracy and scarcity concern us all. »

On his firm’s website, Diébédo Francis Kéré claims an approach “at the crossroads of utopia and pragmatism”, and “which nourishes the imagination of an Afro-futurist vision”. “Drawing on tradition, our practice explores new modes of construction whose foundations have been laid for a long time, can we read again. Innovative uses of local resources and participatory design methods allow us to work beyond the most established boundaries of design practices and shed mainstream norms to create our own standards.” A true manifesto of empowerment through architecture.

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