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Francis Kéré becomes the first African architect to win the coveted Pritzker Prize

For the first time since its creation, the Pritzker Prize awarded an African architect who transforms society with his work.

FFE - Architect, educator, and activist, Burkinabe Francis Kéré became the first African Pritzker Prize winner on Tuesday, an award won not only for his spectacular architectural work, “a source of continuous and lasting happiness and joy,” but also for his social commitment.

His buildings are “a source of continuous and lasting happiness and joy” and he is a pioneer of sustainable architecture in areas of extreme scarcity, which has earned him the award considered the Nobel Prize of Architecture.

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Who is Francis Kéré

Born in Gando, Burkina Faso in 1965, Kéré moved to Berlin in 1985 and has dual Burkinabe and German nationality.

He was the first child in his community to go to school and, as there was no school in his village, at the age of 7 he moved to Tenkodogo, where he attended classes in a classroom built with cement blocks, without ventilation or light, and in which there were up to a hundred pupils.

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That made him promise to build better schools someday, and that is where his vocation for architecture began.

“I grew up in a community where there were no daycare centers, but where the community was your family (...) I remember the room where my grandmother would sit and tell stories with barely any light as we huddled with each other and her voice would envelop us and make us stand closer together and thus form a safe place. That was my first sense of architecture,” explains the award winner in the Hyatt Foundation’s press release.

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In his hometown, he built the Gando Primary School (2001), an example of architecture that seeks to reduce social inequalities. A simple brick building with a high roof and windows with colored shutters on the two main facades, basic elements to improve ventilation.

The school, a project of the Kéré Foundation, increased the number of students from 120 to 700. And the success of this project, which minimizes the need for air conditioning, was extended to buildings in other African countries.

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Architecture with a social impact

With his work, Kéré succeeds in “empowering and transforming communities through architecture,” in which he intelligently uses local materials to connect his work with nature. Wood and brick are the protagonists of his buildings.

Although his buildings are mainly in Africa - in his native Burkina Faso, but also in Benin, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo, Sudan or Mali - there are examples of his work in Germany, the United States, Italy, Switzerland, and Denmark.

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“I hope to change the paradigm, to push people to dream and take risks. Not because you are rich you shouldn’t waste material. Not because you are poor you shouldn’t try to create quality,” says Kére.

In his view, “everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury and everyone deserves comfort.” “We are interrelated and all of us are concerned about climate, democracy, and scarcity.”

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Kéré will receive the Pritzer, endowed with $100,000 (about 91,000 euros at current exchange rates) and a bronze medallion, at a ceremony to be held at the Marshall Building of the London School of Economics and Political Science at a date to be determined.

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