‘Happiest man’ Kere first African to win Pritzker Prize | Arts and Culture News

Burkina Faso-born Diebedo Francis Kere has become the first African to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, architecture’s highest honor.

Kere, 56, has been recognized for his “pioneer” designs that are “sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants – in extremely scarce lands,” said Tom Pritzker, president of the Hyatt Foundation. support for the award, said in a statement Tuesday.

Kere, a Burkina Faso and German national, said he was “the happiest man on the planet” as he became the 51st person to receive the illustrious award. It was first awarded in 1979.

“I have a great sense of honor but also a sense of responsibility,” he told AFP news agency in an interview from his office in Berlin.

Kere is best known for building schools, medical facilities, housing, civic buildings and public spaces across Africa – not only in his homeland but also in countries such as Benin, Mali and Sudan.

“He is an architect and an equal servant, improving the lives and experiences of countless citizens in an area of ​​the world that is sometimes forgotten,” says Pritzker.

Kere has won critical acclaim for his 2001 project for a primary school in the village of Gando, in Burkina Faso, where he was born.

Unlike traditional school buildings that use concrete, Kere’s innovative design combines local clay, reinforced with cement, to form bricks that keep the interior cool. . An elevated swept tin roof also provides protection from heavy rain while helping air circulate.

Kere worked with the local community during the design and construction phase, and the student population at the school has grown from 120 to 700, the Hyatt Foundation said in a statement.

the Lycée Schorge in Burkina Faso is located in a dry and climate-free setting and is designed with local clay with a high roof to shelter the rain and keep the building cool
Lycée Schorge in Burkina Faso catapulted Diébédo Francis Kéré to global fame. The architects used local clay, reinforced with cement, in the construction while the high roof allows air to circulate and keeps the building cool despite the heat. [Francis Kéré via AP Photo]

The success of the project led to an extension, a library, and teacher housing in the years that followed.

‘Natural climate’

Kere “empowers and transforms communities through the architectural process,” designing buildings “where resources are fragile and camaraderie is crucial,” the statement added.

“Through his commitment to social justice and participation, as well as the smart use of local materials to connect and respond to natural climates, he works in countries affected by climate change. disadvantaged with many difficulties and adversities,” said the tournament organizers.

In Burkina Faso, Kere’s title was hailed as a reminder that the country should be more known internationally. conflict and violence.

Groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have killed more than 2,000 people and displaced at least 1.7 million in recent years.

Ra-Sablga Seydou Ouedraogo, the nonprofit Free Afrik, said: “In the current pain of the security crisis, our country must remember that it is also a country of outstanding men like Francis Kere.

Nebila Aristide Bazie, head of the Burkina Faso Architects Council, said the award “highlights African architects and the people of Burkina Faso”.

In 2017, Kere became the first African architect to design the Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Hyde Park, a prestigious task given each year to a prominent architect.

People gather on the grass near the booth designed by Diebedo Francis Kere at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2017
Kere was also selected to design the pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2017. Senior commissions are awarded to a different architect every year. [File: Niklas Halle’n/AFP]

He is also one of the architects behind the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, and has held solo shows at museums in Munich and Philadelphia.

“I absolutely believe that everyone deserves quality,” he said in his office, where he celebrated his award with his team.

“I always think: How can I bring out the best for my customers, for those who can afford it but also for those who can’t?

“This is my way of doing it, using my architecture to create buildings that serve people, let’s say to serve humanity,” Kere added.

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