The architecture of Diébédo Kéré changes Burkina Faso


FAIRFAX, Va. — In 1985, Diébédo Kéré arrived in Berlin, Germany, after leaving his native village of Gando, Burkina Faso, to become an architect. Now, 37 years later, he has won the esteemed prize Pritzer Architecture Prizean international $100,000 prize to an architect whose works have changed human life and the environment. Kéré, despite having lived so long in Germany, never built anything in the city. Instead, he created monumental feats for the people of his homeland, earning him not only the award, but also the thanks of the people of Burkina Faso.

Gando Primary School

In Burkina Faso, about 857,000 children and 942,000 adolescents are out of school, making it a country with one of the lowest school enrollment rates. Kéré had the opportunity to go to primary school, however, he had to walk about 10 miles to the next village, according to Architectural Digest.

In 2001, Kéré built the Gando Primary School in his native village, a building that aimed to solve two major problems: lighting and ventilation. Using a mixture of natural clay and cement, Kéré created a structurally sound school that would combat the country’s hot climate. Additionally, the architect retained a layer of brick between the ceiling and its tin roof to keep in fresh air and provide natural ventilation, reports Architectural Digest.

Surgical Clinic and Health Center

In 2014, in Léo, Burkina Faso, Diébédo Kéré built the Surgical Clinic and Health Center in order to get faster medical help to people in the area. At the time, there was only one hospital, so he decided to build this facility to ease the pressure from the doctors. The building has all the surgical equipment and has a hospitalization service and a maternity ward.

Kéré opted for the region’s natural clay to create the interior of the clinic, and large tin roofs hang over the sides to protect against the heat and heavy rain. In addition, the architect built the Leo Physicians Housing next to the clinic, which consists of five apartments in which local doctors can stay to be closer to their work.

Schorge Secondary School

Lycée is the third most populous city in Burkina Faso, which makes establishing good schools in the area crucial for the children who live there. Started in 2014, but completed in 2016, Diébédo Kéré built the Schorge Secondary School in the most ecological and economical way possible.

Kéré used locally sourced laterite stone to build walls, which is an easily quarried stone. Using this material keeps the heat out. To build the furniture for the school, Kéré opted for local hardwoods and leftover materials from the actual construction, thus using everything to the fullest.

Burkinabè Institute of Technology

The Stern Stewert Institute is an organization/school dedicated to empowering Africans in terms of entrepreneurship, technology and economics. In 2020, the institute collaborated with Diébédo Kéré to expand its campus in Burkina Faso to organize the Burkinabè Institute of Technology (BIT).

At BIT, students can study a wide variety of subjects, ranging from computer science to mechanical engineering. It was important to Kéré to ensure that the interior of the building remained cool as all the technology would fail if it overheated. To solidify this, Kéré created strong clay walls and placed chimneys on the roof to vent hot air. A rain collector was also placed to channel water to be used for mango trees on campus.

The college was awarded the title of the best university in the country due to its persistent commitment to empowering women, especially since more than 300 students are women.

Diébédo Kéré is one of the greatest architects of all time, not only for his unique ways of using only natural resources and his intelligent building designs, but for his loyalty to helping the people of his own country live a better life. Over the years, he created many primary and secondary schools, housing, libraries, protective shelters and classes for people in Burkina Faso. Even though Kéré has already won one of the most prestigious architectural prizes, we can be sure to expect more beautiful things from him that testify to his love for Burkina Faso and his immense artistic talents.

– Yashavi Upasani
Photo: Flickr


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