Diébédo Francis Kéré, an architect, educator and social activist based in Berlin, won the Pritzker Architecture Award for his expertise “sustainable for the earth and its inhabitants on very rare earths,” especially in Africa and his native Burkina Faso, experts say. organizers on Tuesday.
“He is an architect and equal servant in improving the lives and experiences of countless citizens in an sometimes forgotten area of the world,” said Tom Pritzker of Kéré, a citizen of Burkinabe and Germany, when announcing the award, which is considered the highest honor. honor in the profession. Pritzker heads the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Kéré, 56, said he always “wanted to create a space that gives people a sense of comfort and that can inspire them.”
“At a time when the pandemic has made our dependencies all too clear while also facing increasing conflict around diminishing resources, I am honored that my approach stands out with such honour,” he said. “It gives me great hope to have a firsthand experience that no matter how small and remote your beginnings are, you can go further than you ever imagined.”
Most of Kéré’s works are located in Africa, in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo and Sudan. He has also designed pavilions or installations in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Britain and the United States, organizers said.
“Time and time again, in a sense, he has returned to his roots,” the foundation said. “He has taken advantage of his training and his European architectural work, combining it with the traditions, needs and customs of his country.”
The architect told the AP: “I started where I was born, and where population growth was a major issue and infrastructure was sorely needed. I have an obligation to my people and it is important for me to use materials that are abundant and build in an approach that is less burdensome to the environment. So my build is solution oriented. And I realized that these solutions are transferable across locations and time, because all man-made crises require solutions based on sustainable thinking.”
Kéré specializes in design for schools, health institutions, civic buildings and homes. “Through his commitment to social justice and participation, and the intelligent use of local materials to connect and respond to the natural climate, he works in marginalized countries full of limitations and difficulties, where architecture and infrastructure do not exist,” said the organizers.
A 2001 project for the Gando Primary School in Burkina Faso, for example, posed a challenge to “meet essential needs and make up for social inequalities.” Organizers say a dual solution is needed: “Contemporary physical design for facilities that can combat extreme heat and poor lighting conditions with limited resources, and a social determination to cope with uncertainty in society.” They say that Kéré raises funds for projects internationally and creates job opportunities for local residents.
As an example of local materials, the architects used real clay enriched with cement to form the bricks designed to keep cooler air inside while letting heat escape through the brick ceiling and raised ceiling – ventilation without the need for air conditioning. This project made it possible to increase the number of school students from 120 to 700 students.
“He knew, from within, that architecture was not about objects, but about their goals; not the product, but the process,” the jury said in its verdict. “Their building, for and with the community, stems directly from that community, in its construction, materials, program and unique character.”
Organizers praise the “poetic expression of light” in Kéré’s work: “Sunlight filters through the building, courtyard and the space between, overcoming harsh daylight conditions to offer a place of tranquility or gathering.”
Another, more recent project, at an engineering school in Kenya, uses locally quarried rock and stacked towers to minimize the air conditioning needed to protect tech equipment. And at the Burkina Institute of Technology, Kéré used cooled clay walls and turned overhanging eucalyptus trees into corrugated metal roofs, the foundation said.
He was also tasked with building a new seat for the Burkina Faso National Assembly in Ouagadougou, after an uprising in 2014 destroyed the old structure. It has not been built “in the midst of today’s uncertain times,” the foundation said. The plan includes a pyramid-shaped structure to accommodate a 127-person assembly hall inside and allow for informal gatherings outside. “Allowing new views, physically and metaphorically, this is one part of a larger master plan, envisioned to include native flora, exhibition halls, courtyards and memorials for those who lost their lives protesting the old regime,” the foundation said.
Kéré is the recipient of the 51st Pritzker Architecture Prize, created in 1979 by the late entrepreneur Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy. The winner receives $100,000 and a bronze medal.
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