Architect behind iconic campus in Turkana wins prestigious award

Kéré becomes the first African to win the award

The Pritzker Prize - architecture’s most prestigious award - was awarded to Burkina Faso architect Diebedo Francis Kere. (Photo by The Hyatt Foundation)

Burkina Faso-born architect Diebedo Francis Kéré has etched his name in the history books after becoming the first African to win the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s most prestigious award.

Kéré was hailed for his “pioneering” designs that are “sustainable to the Earth and its inhabitants – in lands of extreme scarcity,” Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Hyatt Foundation that sponsors the award, said in a statement.

“I have a feeling of an overwhelming honour but also a sense of responsibility,” said the 56 year old during an interview in his office in Berlin. Kéré is a dual citizen of Burkina Faso and Germany.

“This is my way of doing things, of using my architecture to create structures to serve people, let’s say to serve humanity,” Kéré concluded.

Kéré won plaudits for his 2001 project for a primary school in Gando village, in Burkina Faso, where he was born. He often chooses projects in countries laden with constraints and adversity.

Impeccable CV

The strength of his work in primary and secondary schools generated institutions that demonstrate the power of materiality rooted in place.

For example; the Startup Lions Campus in Turkana county makes use of local quarry stone and stacked towers for passive cooling that minimizes the air conditioning required to protect technology equipment.

The complex is crowned with tall wind towers, thanks to which the interiors are cooled naturally. Adapting to the slope of the site, five main buildings rising two floors, featuring large terraces are arranged in a circular cluster, housing classrooms and workshops.

In 2017, Kéré became the first African architect to design the Serpentine pavilion in London’s Hyde Park, a prestigious assignment given to a world-famous architect every year.

He was also one of the architects behind Geneva’s International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum and has held solo museum shows in Munich and Philadelphia.

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