Francis Kéré Wins 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize

Ulf Meyer
15. March 2022
Diébédo Francis Kéré (Photo courtesy of Lars Borges)

Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, the sponsor of the award, announced the exciting news of Francis Kéré becoming the latest recipient of what is regarded as the Nobel Prize of architecture. “Francis Kéré is pioneering architecture — sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants — in lands of extreme scarcity,” he commented in today’s announcement. “[By] improving upon the lives and experiences of countless citizens in a region of the world that is at times forgotten,” he continued, “Kéré gracefully upholds the mission of this Prize.”

Kéré established his eponymous office in Berlin in 2005. He aims to empower communities through architecture: “I am hoping to change the paradigm, push people to dream and undergo risk.  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,” says Kéré. “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 Architecture's design for the Goethe Institute in Dakar, Senegal, recently started construction. (Visualization: Kéré Architecture)

Kéré, often working in Burkina Faso and other African countries, uses local materials and responds to local climate. In his schools, health facilities, and civic buildings the “expression of his works exceeds the building,” according to a citation from the jury. This year the jury was chaired by Alejandro Aravena (2016 Pritzker laureate) and included Barry Bergdoll, Deborah Berke, Stephen Breyer, André Aranha Corrêa do Lago, Kazuyo Sejima, Wang Shu, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Pritzker Prize executive director Manuela Lucá-Dazio.

“Kéré knows that architecture is not about the object but the objective; not the product, but the process. His work shows the power of materiality rooted in place. His buildings are directly of those communities – in their making, their materials, their programs and their unique characters,” said the jury citation.
 

See also: a series of five short films made by the Pritzker Architecture Prize on the occasion of Francis Kéré being named the 2022 laureate.
Gando Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso, 2001 (Photo courtesy of Erik-Jan Owerkerk)

The Primary School in his home town of Gando established Kéré’s fame in 2001, earning him an Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The design combats heat, poor lighting, and limited resources. He fundraised for the building's realization and created opportunities for citizens to participate, from conception to vocational crafts training. Fortified clay-bricks retain cool air inside, allowing heat to escape through a ceiling and wide, overhanging roof. Teachers’ housing, an extension, and library were later added to the school.

The concrete roof of the Gando Primary School Library (2010) was poured around a grid of traditional clay pots, which left openings that allow heat to escape just as circular beams of natural light illuminate the interiors. A facade constructed of eucalyptus wood surrounds the elliptical building, creating outdoor spaces that emit light. 
 

Burkina Institute of Technology in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, 2020 (Phase 1) (Photo courtesy of Francis Kéré)

The cooling clay walls of the Burkina Institute of Technology in Koudougou (Phase I, 2020) were cast in-situ to speed up construction. Overhanging eucalyptus line the angled corrugated metal roofs, which protect the building during the rainy reason. Rainwater is collected underground to irrigate mango plantations nearby.

The walls of the Centre for Health and Social Welfare (2014, Laongo, Burkina Faso) are adorned with a pattern of framed windows at varying heights to offer views for everyone, from a standing doctor to a sitting visitor, to a patient lying down.
 

Centre for Health and Social Welfare in Laongo, Burkina Faso, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Francis Kéré)

Kéré’s built works and projects are located in Benin, Burkino Faso, Mali, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo, and Sudan. Pavilions have been created in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. His Serpentine Pavilion in 2017 took its shape from the form of a tree and its disconnected yet curved walls are formed by triangular indigo modules.

With Francis Kéré receiving the $100,000 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Hyatt Foundation is recognizing a designer who is steering a new course for architecture.
 

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