Diébedo Francis Kéré Awarded Prince Claus Laureate Award for 2017


Primary School in Gando. Image © Erik Jan Owerkerk

Primary School in Gando. Image © Erik Jan Owerkerk

Architect Diébedo Francis Kéré was named Prince Claus Laureate for 2017, highlighting the cultural value and importance of beautiful, sustainable and empowering architecture. 

Kéré received the award for his “design and construction of buildings of great beauty that meet people’s needs; …for honoring people’s pride in their cultural traditions and techniques, …for inventively combining relevant factors from two different knowledge systems to achieve practical solutions of global relevance and creating an exchange of ideas between Africa and Europe; …and for his ethical commitment to creating inspiring architecture that improves living conditions and uplifts communities…”


Tim Tiebout. Image Courtesy of PMA

Tim Tiebout. Image Courtesy of PMA

Established in 1996, The Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development perceives “culture as a basic need” and seeks to support the endeavors of individuals and organizations in areas that do not have free access to cultural expression. The annual awards recognize outstanding achievement in these areas with a particular focus on people and groups operating in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. High quality, notable contributions to local and wider cultural contexts and clear social impact play a critical role in the decision making of the committee. Jurors from a variety of cultural disciplines including music, visual art, curation, film, architecture and urban planning narrowed down a list of more than 140 nominees to seven Laureates, including two Principal Laureates.


Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

For the judging committee, Kéré’s work spoke to the architecture profession’s potential to be generous and his career has been one of great generosity. As the first child to attend school from his childhood village of Gando in Burkina Faso, Kéré went on to study carpentry in Germany and then attended Berlin’s Technische Universität to study Architecture and Engineering. While studying, he established a charity called Bricks for Gando and in 2000 used the funds to return to Burkina Faso to build Gando Primary School with locals from the village using local materials and with a focus on regeneration. Since, he has completed a number of projects in Gando as well as Sudan, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique and Europe. His commitment to community involvement, including consultation, mentorship and training, generates a sense of ownership amongst its members and develops a system of cultural exchange. It is a true process of teaching and learning, operating in both directions.


The Serpentine Pavilion. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

The Serpentine Pavilion. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

In 2017 Kéré was selected to design the Serpentine Pavilion, which sits in Hyde Park gently, its blue patchwork skin wrapping around like a cloak, and the great, light bowl of the roof floating above it to keep the sun out. There are clear nods to the relationship of building to climate, perhaps less crucial in London than in Gando but just as pertinent. It is a project about gathering and shelter, heat and rain, with water collection as a waterfall feature in the center of it all, and its subtle translucency allowing it to breathe. 


Ouagadougou Parliament Scheme. Image Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

Ouagadougou Parliament Scheme. Image Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

Generated with similar principles Kéré has also been developing a scheme for a new Parliament building in post-revolution Ouagadougou. A large tree becomes the symbolic and literal gathering point for public and political discussion while a walkable façade encases it from above. Seeming to do what so many government buildings fail to do, Kéré is facilitating democracy by way of public amenity. Again, it comes back to a sense of ownership and empowerment of locals, which is at the root of his practice.

Kéré has found a way to produce architecture that is for the people, of the people and by the people, an achievement that makes him wholly deserving of the Prince Claus Laureateship.

News via: Prince Claus Fund

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