The 2022 laureate of architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize is Diébédo Francis Kéré, known as Francis Kéré, Burkina Faso-born architect, educator, social activist, receiver of the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture and designer of the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion.
Recognized for “empowering and transforming communities through the process of architecture”, Kéré, the first black architect to ever obtain this award, works mostly in areas charged with constraints and adversity, using local materials and building contemporary facilities whose value exceeds the structure itself, serving and stabilizing the future of entire communities.
“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,” explains the official statement of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Announced today by Tom Pritzker, Chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, Francis Kéré is the 51st winner of the award founded in 1979, succeeding Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal. Praised “for the gifts he has created through his work, gifts that go beyond the realm of the architecture discipline”, the acclaimed architect is present equally in Burkina Faso and Germany, professionally and personally.
Born in Gando, Burkina Faso in 1965 and based in Berlin, Germany, Francis Kéré works towards “improving the lives and experiences of countless citizens in a region of the world that is at times forgotten” as Pritzker explains. The oldest son of the village chief and the first in his community to attend school, the architect’s first sense of architecture stemmed from his childhood classroom that lacked ventilation and light, on one hand, and from the little illuminated yet safe space where his grandmother would sit and tell stories, on another. In 1985, he traveled to Berlin on a vocational carpentry scholarship, learning to make roofs and furniture by day, while attending secondary classes at night. He was awarded a scholarship to attend Technische Universität Berlin (Berlin, Germany) in 1995, graduating in 2004 with an advanced degree in architecture.
Younger, Kéré had vowed to one day make schools better in extreme climates, allowing for “true teaching, learning, and excitement”, and in 1998, he established the Kéré Foundation to fundraise and advocate for a child’s right to a comfortable classroom. His first building, Gando Primary School in 2001, was built by and for the locals, who crafted every part of the establishment by hand, guided by the architect’s “inventive forms of indigenous materials and modern engineering”. This project awarded him the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004, and led to the inception of his own practice Kéré Architecture, in Berlin, Germany, in 2005. Following this success, other primary, secondary, postsecondary, and medical facilities followed throughout Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mozambique, and Uganda.
“A poetic expression of light is consistent throughout Kéré’s works. Rays of sun filter into buildings, courtyards, and intermediary spaces overcoming harsh midday conditions to offer places of serenity or gathering”, adds the official statement of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Other than schools and medical facilities, Kéré’s work in Africa includes, in progress, two historic parliament buildings, the National Assembly of Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso) and Benin National Assembly (Porto-Novo, Republic of Benin), as well as the TStartup Lions Campus (2021, Turkana, Kenya), an information and communication technologies campus, and the Burkina Institute of Technology (Phase I, 2020, Koudougou, Burkina Faso) composed of cooling clay walls.
With an architectural expression deeply rooted in his upbringing and experiences in Gando, Kéré communicated to the world West African tradition, especially the practice of “communing under a sacred tree to exchange ideas, narrate stories, celebrate and assemble”. In fact, for the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion, the architect imagined a structure that takes its shape from a tree, with a detached roof and disconnected yet curved walls formed by triangular indigo modules, the color representing strength in his culture and more personally, a blue boubou garment worn by the architect as a child. Inside the pavilion, rainwater is funneled into the center, highlighting water scarcity that is experienced worldwide. Beyond creating for the African continent, his built works also include structures in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some of his significant works are Xylem at Tippet Rise Art Centre (2019, Montana, United States), Léo Doctors’ Housing (2019, Léo, Burkina Faso), Lycée Schorge Secondary School (2016, Koudougou, Burkina Faso), the National Park of Mali (2010, Bamako, Mali) and Opera Village (Phase I, 2010, Laongo, Burkina Faso).
A visiting professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (Massachusetts, United States), Yale School of Architecture (Connecticut, United States), Francis Kéré holds the inaugural Chair of Architectural Design and Participation professorship at the Technische Universität München (Munich, Germany) since 2017. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (2018) and the American Institute of Architects (2012) and a chartered member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (2009). Additional awards granted over the years include the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine’s Global Award for Sustainable Architecture (2009), BSI Swiss Architectural Award (2010); the Global Holcim Awards Gold (2012, Zurich, Switzerland), Schelling Architecture Award (2014); Arnold W Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts & Letters (2017); and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture (2021).
The 44th Pritzker Prize ceremony, honoring 2022 Laureate, Diébédo Francis Kéré, will be held at the Great Hall of the newly opened Marshall Building, The London School of Economics and Political Science (London, United Kingdom), designed by Grafton Architects, led by Farrell and McNamara.