Who is Francis Kéré, winner of the Pritzker Prize 2022

The architect from Burkina Faso was awarded with the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2022. His architecture is intended as a tool for emancipating people and producing prosperity in the territory, and originates from the approach with local culture.

Diébédo Francis Kéré, born in 1965, was yesterday selected as the 2022 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most important international award for architecture. A jury chaired by Chilean Alejandro Aravena, a Pritzker Prize winner in 2016, including personalities such as Deborah Berke, Kazuyo Sejima, Wang Shu, and Italian Benedetta Tagliabue, decided to award the prize to an African architect for the first time in the history of the prize. Born in Gando, a village of 3,000 inhabitants in Burkina Faso – a country where 45% of the population is below the poverty line and has an illiteracy rate of over 80% – he has turned his destiny around through his studies, becoming one of the most representative exponents of the African diaspora.


“What is the role of architecture in contexts of extreme scarcity? What is the right approach to practice when working against all odds? Should it be modest and risk succumbing to adverse circumstances? Or is modesty the only way to be relevant and get results? Must it be ambitious to inspire change? Or does ambition run the risk of being misplaced and resulting in wishful thinking architecture?” the jury then explains. “Its cultural sensitivity not only offers social and environmental justice but drives its entire process, in the knowledge that it is the path to legitimacy for a building in a community.”

From Burkina Faso, where he trained as a carpenter, he moved to Berlin early. Thanks to a scholarship, he first graduated from high school, then from night school, and later graduated in architecture. With the strength of optimism from his awareness that only education can make a difference in countries like Burkina Faso, Kéré founded Schulbausteine for Gando: a non-profit association with which he raises funds and builds schools and infrastructure in his country. Even before finishing his studies, Francis Kéré built a primary school in Gando in 2001, a building made of raw earth bricks, with a double roof to protect against heat and rain and a structural system of trusses to be assembled without a crane – at a total cost of just 50,000 dollars. The architecture immediately caught the attention of international critics and was awarded the needle Khan Award for Architecture 2004.

Francis Kéré on Domus 1028, October 2018
Francis Kéré on Domus 1028, October 2018

The same project was later republished in Domus 1028, in October 2018 under the direction of Michele De Lucchi: “The choral work of a community, the construction of the primary school in Gando, Burkina Faso, marked the beginning of a work in progress” explains the text accompanying the photos “which, thanks to the Kéré Foundation is implementing the quality of life in the African village”. The same issue also features the project for the Gando Library, a further element of cultural enrichment for the entire village. Here, terracotta rings obtained by cutting typical containers produced locally have been inserted in the ceiling to introduce natural light and ventilation into the interior.

Also, in Burkina Faso, Kéré designed the new Parliament (Ouagadougou, under construction): a 25,000 square meter building on the site of the previous building, designed to be a system of shaded public spaces for the community. In 2017, Kéré symbolically brought his native country outside the Serpentine Gallery in London, building a temporary pavilion inspired by the vegetation and trees of Burkina Faso, featuring a steel and wood canopy from which natural light filters in the daytime and becomes an illuminated torch at night (currently in Malaysia).


One of his latest works is the Startup Lions Campus, an example of all-around sustainable architecture and a landmark in the barren landscape of the shores of Lake Turkana. The campus buildings are volumes of local stone finished on all surfaces, even the roofs that cannot be walked on, with the same warm, earthy plaster. The complex is articulated, not completely mimetic but at least ton-sur-ton, on the slope sloping down towards the body of water, exploiting the slope to define sequences of open spaces of different shapes and heights. Deeply integrated into its context – that is, into its landscape but also into the local dynamics of production – the Startup Lions Campus also appears to be inspired by a kind of “universal reasonableness.”

“I hope to change the paradigm, to push people to dream and take risks. It’s not because you’re rich that you should waste material. It’s not because you’re poor that you shouldn’t try to create quality,” says the architect about the prestigious award he received. “Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury, and everyone deserves comfort. We are interconnected, and concerns about climate, democracy, and scarcity are concerns for all of us”. Through practice, or rather by constructing buildings built by local communities out of locally sourced materials and low technology, Kéré shows the political value of architecture.

Diébédo Francis Kéré, portrait. Photo @ Lars Borges

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