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Diébédo Francis Kéré

Burkina Faso / Germany

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Diébédo Francis Kéré was born in Burkina Faso in 1965, the first born son of the chief of the village of Gando. After completing his apprenticeship as a carpenter, Kéré began to work in the capital city of Ouagadougou as a teacher in the professional training courses organised with the sponsorship of the German Federal Administration for Economic Cooperation and Development. Kéré was awarded a scholarship in 1990 and moved to Berlin. He completed his secondary education there and enrolled in the School of Architecture at the Technical University of Berlin, where he earned his degree in 2004.

Kéré began his career in architecture while still at university. In 1998, he founded the organisation Bricks for the Gando Schools, through which he raised the funds to build a new primary school in his home village. The building was conceived to ensure efficient natural ventilation in the rooms, achieved by the combination of structural walls in earth blocks (with elements of reinforced concrete), large windows and a peaked ceiling with openings on the roof. The building is covered by a larger, corrugated metal roof that shades the walls and shelters the building during the rainy season. The construction techniques were adapted to the local resources and took advantage of the technical skills of local workers, while involving the entire village in the construction. The quality of the new spaces has made it possible for an increasing number of students to attend the school, which soon led to the need to build new classrooms as well as living quarters for teachers.

The Primary School of Gando immediately attracted international attention and recognition for its high quality. Kéré was honoured in 2004 with the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, followed in 2007 by the Zumtobel Award for Sustainable Architecture and in 2009 by the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture.

Diébédo Francis Kéré has been a lecturer at the Technical University of Berlin since October 2004, and opened his own architecture practice in Berlin in September 2005. His professional activity, while centred in Burkina Faso, is not limited to his homeland. He has designed concepts in Mali (a community centre in Mopti and the National Park of Mali), Yemen (school building prototypes), India (a girls’ boarding school in Dattigaon, 2009), and the Canary Islands (meeting point in Fuerteventura, a concept developed for the first Architecture, Art and Landscape Biennial).

Kéré’s work has been exhibited at the Expo of Zaragoza in the section “ZaragozaKyoto – Architectures for a Sustainable Planet”, at the DAM Deutsches Architecturmuseum in Frankfurt and, more recently, at the MoMA in New York.


Second Edition 2009-2010

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The Jury awarded unanimously Francis Kéré for his “exceptional capacity to create buildings that, while benefiting from the technical knowledge he gained while studying in Europe, are deeply rooted in the cultural tradition and social fabric of his country of origin, Burkina Faso, and are the result of local communities’ intense involvement”. The jury, headed by architect Mario Botta, chose Kéré’s work, on this occasion represented by the extension of the elementary school and the teachers’ residence in Gando and the secondary school in Dano, because it is highly representative in terms of the demands that it responds to and the results that it achieves.

Teachers’ Housing

Gando (Burkina Faso), 2003

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The construction of teachers’ accommodation, with standards to match the school building, followed the school. The teachers’ housing was designed to give an incentive to migrate to the countryside while living with the same level of comfort as expected in the city. In order to be able to respond to the staff’s requirements and at the same time ensure sustainable integration into village life, the houses were constructed as modules. Certainly, the project aims at being attractive and comfortable for the local people as well. In size, the basic module is comparable to the traditional living space in the region. Single modules can be combined variously into larger composite units. Each module variation consists of the requisite living space for staff and family, a courtyard surrounding the house and a unit with shower and pit latrines within the courtyard. With its arrangements in rows and coordinated series of half open and open spaces, the housing design is an enhancement of the farmstead structure used in urban planning. Furthermore, these houses offer a revised architecture of the villagers’ homes. The design avoids using wood in order to increase fire protection and because there hardly is any wood for building. Metal roofing would be preferable, not only because of its availability but also for its resistance against termites. Yet high costs keep many from affording this material. Therefore, this project strives to offer concepts including local materials. For protection against rising humidity, the 40 cm thick solid adobe walls are based on a foundation of cast-in-place cement and granite boulders. The solid barrel vault which is also made of clay rests on these walls. Tin roofed constructions have become very popular and slowly are displacing the traditional thatched houses. Due to lack of knowledge and working skills with this material, these houses have extremely poor climatic conditions inside. In comparison, the new adobe structure of the outer shell helps reduce the temperature inside. As a consequence the rooms are pleasantly cool during the day. There are two different types of roof sizes. At the point of convergence of two roofs a sickle-like gap is created which allows cool air and light into the room.
The project is not seen as completed fully yet; additional improvements and developments are being implemented, e.g. for weather protection. Nevertheless, it has already found emulators who accept the ideas and follow the model for new homes to be built. Both the school and teachers’ houses are notable for one very important feature: the strong, active and enthusiastic engagement of the Gando people. The projects were conducted by women, men and children of the village alike and evoked awareness and a sense of responsibility.

enrico-cano-kere-teachers-Gando__23947. © Photo by Enrico Cano

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Secondary School

Dano (Burkina Faso), 2007

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Situated at the edge of a small town in Burkina Faso, the project comprises an L-shaped addition to an existing school complex. The design incorporates locally available materials and sustainable features that respond to the specific constraints of climate. This new building closes the southern angle of the compound and is oriented to reduce direct sunlight onto the walls, which are themselves protected from the sun by a wave-like canopy. The extension comprises three individual blocks housing the classroom, offices and a computer room. An oval “amphitheatre”, open to the exterior, serves as a sitting area during breaks. The ensemble is covered by a tilted, cantilevering roof structure whose undulating bays create a rhythm against the orthogonal enclosure below. Walls of locally available laterite (laminated with thin layers of cement to form 30-cm thick load-bearing partitions) sit on a granite stone bed. Regularly spaced, tall window shutters are painted in bright colors that vary with the activity inside. The roof consists of 3 m wide, modular elements assembled from 14 mm and 16 mm thick iron bars welded together on site. Corrugated roofing fixed to the assemblage protects the interior from the elements. Within the classrooms, a wave-like suspended ceiling defined into 3 m bays recalls the outer structure. Slits in the ceiling allow hot air to flow out through the roof, keeping the building naturally ventilated. Composed of cement stones hanging on the construction of thin, flat-rolled steel, the underside of the ceiling is painted in reflective white so as to distribute light within the classrooms. Throughout the construction process, local artisans were trained in new techniques, ensuring that building methods would stay within the community.

enrico-cano-kere-dano-Dano__24158. © Photo by Enrico Cano

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enrico-cano-kere-dano-Dano__24061. © Photo by Enrico Cano

enrico-cano-kere-dano-Dano__24181. © Photo by Enrico Cano

enrico-cano-kere-dano-Dano__24145. © Photo by Enrico Cano





School Extension

Gando (Burkina Faso)
, 2008

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The school extension building in Gando is the result of the success of the first school building which was finished in 2001 and provided space for 120 students. Because of the high quality and the strong identification of the entire village community with the building, two years after the opening more than 260 children wanted to attend education in that school. This made an extension inevitable. The design principle follows the same climatic considerations as in the first school, but in a different physical expression. Instead of the massive ceiling used by the first school, the ceiling of the extension building is a vault with slits for light and outlet vents for the overheated air. For climatic reasons, cavities have been integrated into the vault. The enclosed air in the cavities works as a buffer and so can help reduce overheating inside the classrooms. The protection against rain and sun is provided, like in the first school, by a widely overhung metal roof. This roof, which absorbs direct sunlight, lets the air circulate between the two layers and guides the hot air out of the building. It can be considered as the motor of this natural ventilation system. Regarding the participation of the people in the building process there was a big difference to the first one. During the work process all the surrounding village communities of Gando, came to help erect the extension building. This was very new in the region and initiated a turning point in the perception of the community. Never before has a school project raised expectations like this in the region. Even the government was surprised by the overwhelming interest of the people in their project and is about to find ways to support the schools in the long run.

enrico-cano-kere-gando-Gando__23589b. © Photo by Enrico Cano

enrico-cano-kere-gando-Gando__23596. © Photo by Enrico Cano

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Video documentation

© Video by Daniele Marucci

© Video by Daniele Marucci

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