One of the greatest awards an architect can receive is the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The award, presented annually, is the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for architects. This year, on March 15th, Tom Pritzker, the president of the Hyatt Foundation and promoter of the award, announced the 2022 winner; Diébédo Francis Kéré. Kéré will earn $100,000 and a bronze medal as part of this honor. However, perhaps the greatest prize of all is being included among other notable names, such as James Stirling, Norman Foster, Tadao Ando, and many others.
Since its creation in 1979, the Pritzker Prize has typically been awarded to well-known architects. In recent years, however, the expert panel has refocused its attention on socially conscious businesses that use design for the common good. This year’s pick, Diébédo Francis Kéré, presents with a focus on sustainability for both the environment and community. Kéré demonstrates these traits by employing a large number of citizens from his home country, Burkina Faso. In 2020, Burkina Faso was ranked as having the lowest GDP per capita, and therefore Kéré aims to ensure the local community can benefit from his projects just as much as visitors. He hires carpenters, welders, masons, and painters to demonstrate his love for his community and pay homage to his home country. In 2001, Kéré asked residents to participate in every aspect of the construction process at Gando Primary School. The final product was a stunning structure that the entire town could be proud of.
© Iwan Baan
So who is Diébédo Francis Kéré?
The 56-year-old architect was born in Gando, Burkina Faso in 1965 as the eldest son of the village chief. He grew up with limited resources, having no electricity or access to clean water. He was the only child in his family to attend school. At the age of 20, Kéré moved to German to study at the Technical University of Berlin. He graduated in 2004 with a degree in architecture. Instead of staying in Europe, which was rich in resources compared to his home country, he decided to return to Burkina Faso to give back to his local community through much-needed infrastructure and opportunities for locals. In 2005 he opened his company, Kéré Architecture, and housed offices in both Berlin and Burkina Faso. He is the first African to receive the Pritzker Prize.
© Iwan Baan
Kéré’s work is especially impressive due to the limited resources, lack of infrastructure, and challenging environments. His buildings enhance the lives of the local community while also representing the importance of hard work and determination. Kéré is a role model for all as he urges others to dream big and seek quality; regardless of their upbringing. His works are beautiful, powerful, and symbolic, influenced by African traditions and his personal experiences. His pieces use native materials, such as clay, and ancestral techniques to help maintain a cool indoor climate among the 38 degrees Celsius weather that is typical in Africa. Kéré has also created pieces in London and Montana, showing that his talent can stretch across the globe.
While the world is in a state of disarray, Kéré’s pieces remind us to always find beauty and love and lean on our community in moments of darkness. He is a pioneer of sustainability, a humanitarian, and a role model to all.
© Iwan Baan