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Burkinabe Architect Wins Top Prize

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Diébédo Francis Kéré of Burkina Faso has won the 2022 Pritzker Architecture Prize, making him the first African architect ever to win the prestigious international award.

Kéré works mostly in challenging locales using local materials that serve entire communities, according to a report for the website ArchDaily. 

“Through buildings that demonstrate beauty, modesty, boldness, and invention, and by the integrity of his architecture and geste, Kéré gracefully upholds the mission of this Prize,” according to the official statement of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

In mid-March 2022, Kéré was in Porto-Novo, Benin, where his firm, Kéré Architecture, was working on a new parliamentary building based on the palaver tree, which “is a tree under which people come together to make decisions, to celebrate,” he told NPR. 

Kéré had an oasis in mind as he designed Naaba Belem Goumma Secondary School and Gando Primary School in his native Burkina Faso, NPR reported. Kéré was born in Gando.

His designs are a harmonious blend of practicality, function and local materials. Gando Primary School, for example, mixed indigenous clay and cement to form bricks that have “bioclimatic thermal mass,” according to the prize announcement. This lets them keep cooler air inside while warmer air flows out through a brick ceiling and a wide, overhanging roof. The result: ventilation without mechanical air conditioning in a harsh climate.

Kéré’s innovations helped the school increase its enrollment from 120 to 700 students.

“I am hoping to change the paradigm, push people to dream and undergo risk,” Kéré said, according to the prize announcement. “It is not because you are rich that you should waste material. It is not because you are poor that you should not try to create quality. Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury, and everyone deserves comfort.”

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