Francis Kéré is Principal of Kéré Architecture, based in Berlin, Germany.
Established in 2005, Kéré Architecture has developed an international reputation for its focus on enabling community-supported construction of sustainable and appropriate education facilities that effectively contribute to social development. The design of material-sparing structures with mud bricks and lightweight steel frames are often built by unskilled labor with an elegant economy of means.
He is Guest Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (2011-) and Professor at the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, Switzerland (2013-). He was appointed to the newly created professorship “Architectural Design & Participation” at the Faculty of Architecture, Technische Universität München (TUM) (2020-), where he also acts as an expert for the interdisciplinary research network “Simply Build”.
He was born the son of the village chief in Gando, a small village in Burkina Faso. Since no school existed in Gando, he went to live in the city with an uncle at seven years of age. He became a carpenter and received a scholarship to undertake an apprenticeship in Germany as a supervisor in development aid. After completing the apprenticeship, he went on to study architecture including modules in civil engineering at the Technische Universität (TU) in Berlin.
Francis Kéré felt it was his duty to contribute to his family and to the community that had supported him, and to give the next generation the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. As a university student, he built a primary school in his home village and set up the association “Schulbausteine für Gando” to fund the project with the objective of combining the knowledge he had gained in Europe, with traditional building methods from Burkina Faso.
His works in Gando, Burkina Faso include the Primary School (2001), Teacher’s Housing (2003), School Extension (2008), Library (2012), and Secondary School (2012). His first school in Gando received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture – recognized not only for its innovative construction techniques and expressive care in craftsmanship but also for being built cooperatively by the Gando community. The follow-up project in Gando, a secondary school, received the Holcim Awards Gold 2011 for Middle East Africa and also the Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012. The project received the first ever Holcim Building Better Recognition 2017 in honor of its influence as a realised project that has stood the test of time.
Other works in Burkina Faso, Mali, China, Mozambique, Kenya, Togo, Sudan, Germany and Switzerland include the Dano Secondary School, Burkina Faso (2007); Center for Earth Architecture in Mopti, Mali (2010); Laongo Opera Village, Burkina Faso (under construction); Zhou Shan Harbour Development Cultural Precinct, China with Wang Shu; Léo Medical Center, Burkina Faso (2012); and the International Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, Switzerland (2012). Francis Kéré became the first African architect of the Serpentine pavilion (2017): a temporary summer pavilion by an international architect or design team who has not completed a building in England at the time of the Gallery’s invitation.
He is a respected authority in the field of architecture, and on the design of buildings to be ecologically- and socially adequate for their environment.
Francis Kéré will design a building and masterplan for the new Assembly Building of the Burkinese Parliament. The new building needs to be one that could “not only address the core democratic values of transparency, openness and equality, but could also become a catalyst for growth and development for the capital city of Ouagadougou as a whole,” says Francis Kéré.
He is winner of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture (2009); BSI Swiss Architectural Award (2010), the Marcus Prize (2011) Green Planet Architects Award (2013), Schelling Architecture Foundation Award (2014), and the Kenneth Hudson Award for European Museum of the Year (2015). He received the Arnold W Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts & Letters (2017) where he was praised as “an alchemist working with local materials and technology to design buildings of meaning and beauty”. The prize is given to a preeminent architect who has made a significant contribution to architecture as art. He was recipient of the Prince Claus Laureate Award in 2017 highlighting the cultural value and importance of beautiful, sustainable and empowering architecture. He was named Architektur & Wohnen (AW) Architect of the Year 2021. The jury selected the visionary and designer of the future for his deeply humanistic approach and the gift of seamlessly harmonizing the avant-garde, experimentalism, and optimism.
He received the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture (2021) which recognizes individuals for distinguished contributions to the field of architecture. “Francis Kéré has not only taught the world that architecture and education are for everyone, but also has exemplified how architecture can build capacity in communities, foster environmental and cultural resilience, and inspire creativity while immeasurably serving the public good,” commented Dean of Architecture at The University of Virginia, Ila Berman.
Francis Kéré was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) in 2018, recognising the importance of socially and environmentally responsible architecture. “Since I started, I always tried to incorporate the people and their environment in my designs, and being recognised for it sends the message that it is important,” said Francis Kéré.
His architectural work has been the subject of solo exhibitions: Radically Simple at the Architecture Museum, Munich (2016) and The Architecture of Francis Kéré: Building for Community, Philadelphia Museum of Art (2016). His work has also been selected for group exhibitions: Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010) and Sensing Spaces, Royal Academy, London (2014).
He was an expert in the workshop Local resources - Leveraging regional skills and metabolism at the 4th Holcim Forum “Economy of Sustainable Construction” held in Mumbai (2013). He is winner of the Holcim Awards Gold for Middle East Africa (2011), Global Holcim Awards Gold (2012), and the Holcim Building Better Recognition for Middle East Africa (2017).
Francis Kéré was a member of the Holcim Awards jury for Africa Middle East (2014) and of the Global Holcim Awards jury (2018). He was a keynote speaker at the 6th International Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction held in Cairo, Egypt (2019).