Sustainable construction: climate, democracy and scarcity are concerns for us all

Diébédo Francis Kéré wins “Nobel Prize” for Architecture

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    Diébédo Francis Kéré is Principal of Kéré Architecture, based in Berlin, Germany.

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    Francis Kéré is Principal of Kéré Architecture, based in Berlin, Germany. His material-sparing school design, using cement-stabilized clay and lightweight steel frames, is often built by unskilled labor with an elegant economy of means.

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    6th Holcim Forum

    Conversations on “Re-materializing Construction” complemented the keynote speeches (l-r): Maria Atkinson AM, Founding CEO, Green Building Council of Australia; Francis Kéré, Principal, Kéré Architecture, Germany/Burkina Faso; Anne Lacaton, Principal, Lacaton & Vassal Architectes, France; and Alejandro Aravena, member of the Board, Holcim Foundation.

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    In terms of construction, the secondary school, displays a radical new innovation. Clay is no longer made into individual bricks: instead, the walls of the secondary school are made by pouring the mixture of clay, gravel, and cement into a mold, producing larger sections.

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    Project update March 2014 – Secondary school with passive ventilation system, Gando, Burkina Faso

    Construction of the two new school buildings is complete – with interior fit-out including windows, doors and floors to follow. The classrooms are already occupied by students eager to make the most of the opportunity.

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    The corrugated tin roof, which is raised above the clay ceiling, is heated by the sun. Air between the ceiling and roof heats up and rises, drawing cool air from below and creating a current.

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    Global Holcim Awards 2012 hand-over ceremony, Gando, Burkina Faso

    Project author Diébédo Francis Kéré presents the Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012 trophy to more than 3,000 people from the Gando community and neighboring villages who came to welcome him home.

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    The Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012 trophy was presented to Diébédo Francis Kéré for "Secondary school with passive ventilation system", Gando, Burkina Faso at the Rolex Learning Center of the EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland.

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    The pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery in the UK is based on the same principles as the buildings in Burkina Faso.

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    The housing complex for employees of a hospital in Léo incorporates design strategies of traditional rural villages.

Diébédo Francis Kéré, architect, educator and social activist, has been selected as the 2022 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. His pioneering approach to architecture creates projects that are sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants - and delivers innovative solutions in lands of extreme scarcity.

Last updated: March 16, 2022 Chicago, IL, USA

Through his commitment to social justice and engagement, and intelligent use of local materials to connect and respond to the natural climate, he works in marginalised countries laden with constraints and adversity, where architecture and infrastructure are absent.

Building contemporary school institutions, health facilities, professional housing, civic buildings and public spaces, oftentimes in lands where resources are fragile and fellowship is vital, the expression of his works exceeds the value of a building itself.

We are interlinked 

“I am hoping to change the paradigm, push people to dream and undergo risk. It is not because you are rich that you should waste material. It is not because you are poor that you should not try to create quality,” says Kéré in the Pritzker Architecture Prize announcement. “Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury, and everyone deserves comfort. We are interlinked and concerns in climate, democracy and scarcity are concerns for us all.”

Contributing to holistic sustainability

The Pritzker Architecture Prize jury headed by Alejandro Aravena – also a Board member of the Holcim Foundation since 2013 – noted how Francis Kéré has found brilliant, inspiring and game-changing ways to answer how architecture can contribute to holistic sustainability. “His cultural sensitivity not only delivers social and environmental justice, but guides his entire process, in the awareness that it is the path towards the legitimacy of a building in a community. He knows, from within, that architecture is not about the object but the objective; not the product, but the process,” explains the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury citation.

An exemplary Holcim Awards winner

The Holcim Foundation is honoured and inspired to have enjoyed a long association with Francis Kéré: initially as winner of the Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012 for his Secondary school with passive ventilation system in Burkina Faso. The school is exemplary in terms of its successful approach to the adaptive use of building materials, community development, climatic mitigation and aesthetics.

Francis Kéré has also been a member of the Holcim Awards jury for region Middle East Africa in 2014 and 2021, and for the Global Holcim Awards jury in 2018. He was a workshop expert on “Leveraging regional skills and metabolism” at the 4th Holcim Forum 2013.

He was a keynote speaker at the 6th Holcim Forum 2019. Francis Kéré reflected on the theme “Embed know-how” including examples from his work building a school in his birthplace village of Gando, Burkina Faso. He advocated education, learning from history, and making information more accessible – as key components of ensuring success. “We need to deconstruct preconceived ideas – embracing innovation and locally-sourced materials,” he said.

Sustainable materials and modes of construction 

Francis Kéré has become one of the world’s most distinguished contemporary architects, celebrated for his pioneering communal approach to design and his commitment to incorporating sustainable materials and modes of construction. It is an indication of the importance of sustainable approaches to the built environment as well as the innovative and sensitive approaches of Francis Kéré that he has been recognized for embodying how sustainable architecture today can reflect and serve needs, including the aesthetic needs, of peoples throughout the world.