NEW YORK, NY.-
Growing up in a poor village in Burkina Faso, Francis Kéré did not play soccer with the other boys. He helped fix houses.
After winning a scholarship to a vocational school for carpentry in Germany and attending architecture school at the Technical University of Berlin, Kéré did not rush to join a prestigious firm. As an architecture student, he had raised the money to build an elementary school in his hometown, Gando, with construction help from local residents, drawing blueprints for them in the sand.
And even after earning international acclaim at exhibitions such as the Serpentine Pavilion in London and the Venice Biennale, Kéré has continually directed his attention toward home.
It is this devotion to lifting up the community he came from that has helped Kéré, 56, earn the Pritzker Prize, architectures highest honor, which was announced Tuesday.
His buildings, for and with communities, are directly of those communities in their making, their materials, their programs and their unique characters, the jury said in its citation. They are tied to the ground on which they sit and to the people who sit within them. They have presence without pretense and an impact shaped by grace.
Kéré, in a telephone interview, said he was moved by the Pritzker recognition he said he cried and that he was surprised to have come to the jurys attention.
I still dont believe it, he said. Ive been pushing this work in architecture to bring good-quality architecture to my people.
That work has taken the form of schools, libraries, health care centers and public spaces often in underserved areas where Kéré makes the most of limited resources and draws on West African traditions. His projects have been concentrated in Africa, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Mozambique and Sudan.
In the absence of air-conditioning for his Gando Primary School (2001), Kéré used cement-fortified bricks and an elevated, overhanging roof to counteract conditions of extreme heat and poor lighting.
That project increased the schools student body to 700 students from 120 and led to Kérés design for teachers housing (2004), an extension (2008) and a library (2019). Last year, T Magazine named the primary school one of the 25 most significant buildings built after World War II.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times