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Francis Kéré

Diébédo Francis Kéré is a Pritzker Architecture Prize winning Burkinabé architect recognized for creating innovative works that are often sustainable and collaborative in nature.

Diébédo Francis Kéré began working while still a student at the Technical University of Berlin. His first project and the first primary school in Kéré’s home village of Gando, was opened in 2001. While schools in Burkina Faso are normally built out of concrete, it is an expensive and energy consuming material to produce and the material is ill suited to the hot climate. Kéré used locally available resources and built with mud bricks. His design consisted of a wide, raised tin roof to protect the walls from rain and allow air to circulate under the building for cooling. The finished building was cooler and more pleasant than the conventional concrete ones. 

Kéré’s process included the entire community, gathering together different participants in both the design and construction phases and subsequently allowing a synthesis between traditional building techniques and modern construction. The techniques that the community learned in erecting the building have allowed them to practice elsewhere, stimulating the proliferation of better building. Construction of a secondary school designed by Kéré began in May 2011. The new building complex was designed to accommodate approximately 1000 students. 

Another of Kéré’s projects, “Opera House for Africa” was initiated by German film and theatre director Christoph Schlingensief. Kéré designed a festival theatre, workshops, a medical center, guest houses, solar panels, a well, and a school for 500 children and teenagers offering music and film classes. The village comprised of simple basic modules, which vary in quality and function depending on the equipment they house. Members of the local community were employed to build the modules. Local materials such as clay, laterite, cement bricks, gum wood and loam rendering were used for construction. Due to the massive walls and large overhang of the roofs, air conditioning could be discounted in most buildings. The theatre hall was conceived as a place of encounter and exchange for people of different cultural and family backgrounds.

In 2022, Kéré became the first African to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

We had a chance to speak with Mr. Kéré on our podcast, Social Design Insights, about his philosophy of inclusion, and his advice for young designers in a two-part interview. Listen to the episodes below.

55 | Designing for the Future, Part 1
56 | Designing for the Future, Part 2


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "El hadji n'fa djigui Diabaté" by Salimata Diabaté from her album "Djigui."