Diébédo Francis Kéré: Architecture is a wake-up call

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Architecture, Kéré explains, is basically a social process – especially in the poorer and less developed regions of the world. It is about integrating the people, you build for, making them feel, it is their project. In this way, they identify with the building and are proud of it.

In his works, Kére chooses to work with local materials – wood and clay – although his buildings must have a modern articulation. The local community very often identify traditional materials with a premodern stage of development.

Involving people means teaching them modern building skills, which they later on will need to maintain the building. Besides that, local materials are ideal in confronting the climatic challenges of the region: Clay keeps the heat out of the building and stabilizes the temperature inside, which is “better than artificial climatization”, Kéré says. “If we learn to build with local materials, we have a future. Architecture can bring a lot to a local society like mine. Architecture makes people proud, simply proud. And that can generate a lot of energy.”

Diébédo Francis Kéré was born in 1965 in the village of Gando. He was the first child in the village to be sent to school as his father, the village chief, wanted his eldest son to learn how to read and translate his letters. Since no school existed in Gando, Kéré had to leave his family when he was 7 years old to live with his uncle in the city. After finishing his education, he became a carpenter and went on to study architecure at the Technical University of Berlin, where his study is based today.

During his studies Kéré felt it was his duty to contribute to his family and to the community which had supported him, and to give the next generation the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. In 1998, with the help of his friends, Kéré set up the association Schulbausteine für Gando to fund the construction of a primary school for his village. His objective was to combine the knowledge he had gained in Europe, with traditional building methods from Burkina Faso. He completed his studies and built the first school in Gando as his diploma project in 2004. Since then, Kére has received numerous architectural awards – besides others the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004 and the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2009.

Credits:
Diébédo Francis Kéré was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Editing by Kamilla Bruus
Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014.
Supported by Nordea Fonden.