Meet 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, Francis Kéré, Burkina Faso-born black architect, in an interview about his architectural philosophy, with Louisiana Channel. As the official statement of the Pritzker Architecture Prize notes, “Through buildings that demonstrate beauty, modesty, and invention, and by the integrity of his architecture and geste, Kéré gracefully upholds the mission of this Prize”, continually “empowering and transforming communities through the process of architecture.”
After graduating with an architecture degree at the Technical University of Berlin, Kéré went on to build Gando Primary School, standing as the first school in the village in which he grew up as his diploma project in 2004. The project was later recognized with the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture within the same year. Based in both Germany and Burkina Faso, Kéré Architecture seeks to develop works in the ‘intersection of utopia and pragmatism’, exploring the border between Western architecture and local practice.
Kéré is presently well-versed in the manner of working with local materials such as wood and clay, with the local community very often identifying traditional materials with a premodern stage of development. Although materials such as the likes of clay are attached to preconceived notions of poverty, Kéré’s firm transformed it and utilized it for the creation of a building deemed successful.
Kéré notes, “If we learn to build with local materials, we have a future. Architecture can bring a lot to a local society like mine. Architecture makes people proud, simply proud. And that can generate a lot of energy.” Kéré describes architecture as a social process, serving the purpose of integrating the individuals you build for, making them feel as if the project is just as much theirs, as much as it is yours, as the architect.
To believe is the first step towards opportunities for innovation, and naturally, people become part of it. The association of community is something Kéré holds dear, as he desires for them to actively participate in the process. Kéré’s work gained national recognition as a result of these elements, notably on the involvement of the inhabitants of his village in the construction of his works to combine ethical commitment, environmental efficiency, and aesthetic quality.
Additionally, there is an element of identification with the buildings in which they are called to take pride, developing works going beyond the conventional limits of architecture, touching on themes such as local economy, migration, culture, and equity. Kéré notes this feeling, this identity catalyst, as one of the strongest experiences – the notion of understanding the common value that is: ‘we made it.’
Francis Kéré shows us that architecture can be universal and still a thrill in a successful move to inspire the local community. Following Kéré’s influence, architecture has since formed a pedagogical function, showing that the future can be a little colorful.