The secondary school in the village of Gando in Burkina Faso was selected to receive the Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012 out of more than 6,000 competition entries from all over the world. Speakers at the prize handover held at the iconic Rolex Learning Center of the EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland included internationally-renowned architect Enrique Norten, EPFL president Patrick Aebischer, and Holcim Chairman Rolf Soiron. The project was praised for its approach to using traditional building materials and technologies that also places great emphasis on actively involving the local population in the construction process.
The Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012 was presented to Berlin-based architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, himself a son of the village headman of Gando where his latest school complex for more than 1,000 children is being constructed. The architect needed to convince the locals of the durability and strength of clay which is poured and cast similar to concrete, improving its structural performance by adding a small proportion of cement.
The approach uses clay and stones that are collected from land adjacent to the village, and introduces new and more sustainable construction techniques. Diverse design aspects of the project address the challenging weather conditions with temperatures peaking above 40°C. For the interior climate, the natural ventilation cooling effect is enhanced by routing air through underground tubes, planting vegetation, and the use of double-skin roofs and façades to achieve a remarkable temperature reduction.
Enrique Norten, Principal and Founder of TEN Arquitectos, and head of the Global Holcim Awards jury (Mexico/USA), explained the exemplary nature of the project in terms of its successful approach to the adaptive use of building materials, community development, climatic mitigation and aesthetics. “This beautiful school is not only an elegant design solution, but it also delivers training and employment, uses local building materials, and – with simple means – creates an outstanding environment from a social perspective and also in constructive terms,” he said.
Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Holcim Foundation and CEO of Holcim, Bernard Fontana, congratulated the prize winner and his team for applying professional know-how and passionate dedication to developing an approach that is both socially-engaged and intelligently leverages the local human and physical resources. “The Secondary School Gando is constructed by the local community and builds not only a series of structures, but also a sense of identity and enhanced social cohesion,” he said.
Diébédo Francis Kéré presented his winning project to an audience including students of architecture and engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). The engaging talk clearly conveyed his personal commitment to his work in different cultures and its potential benefits to the community. With regard to the winning project he said: “The enhanced indoor comfort and conditions are far more conducive to education for the students – while at the same time people learn building skills using clay and other readily available local materials, which strengthens the idea of a mutually-beneficial process since the skills learnt can be applied beyond the confines of the site.”
In the regional phase of the Holcim Awards 2011, this project won gold for Africa Middle East and thereby qualified for the Global Holcim Awards competition in 2012. The Holcim Awards competition is run by the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation and offers USD 2 million in prize money per three-year cycle. It is sponsored by Holcim Ltd, one of the world’s leading suppliers of cement and aggregates, and its Group companies in 70 countries. The next Holcim Awards competition will open on July 1, 2013.