Diébédo Francis Kéré is a German-trained architect from the small West African town of Gando in Burkina Faso. As the first son of the head of his village, he was the only child allowed to attend school. After excelling in his studies, Kéré was awarded a scholarship to apprentice in Germany. He then attended the Technische Universität in Berlin where he earned his diploma in Architecture and Engineering. While still a student, Kéré established his charitable foundation Schulbausteine für Gando (Bricks for Gando) in 1998. Parallel to his studies, he began to raise money for the purpose of building a school in his home village. Despite major economic and logistical challenges, Kéré set his focus towards reinvesting his knowledge back into his home community in Burkina Faso. Using his formal training as an architect, he developed strategies for innovative construction by combining traditional Burkinabé building techniques and materials with modern engineering methods. In order to realize his goal, Francis Kéré partnered closely with his community, demonstrating to them the possibility and potential for innovation that could benefit their village for years to come.
The Primary School was completed in 2001 and received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for its elegant and simple design using basic construction techniques. Following the success of this project, Kéré became acutely aware of further challenges Gando faced. He developed plans for a School Extension, School Library, Secondary School, Teacher’s Housing, Songtaaba Women’s Center, and a research center for Ecological and sustainable building practices known as the Atelier. Since founding Kéré Architecture in 2005, his work has been recognized with numerous prestigious awards such as the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, the BSI Swiss Architectural Award, the Marcus Prize, the Global Holcim Gold Award, and the Schelling Architecture Award. His work in Burkina Faso has earned him an honorary fellowship for the American Institute of Architects and a membership of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He has held professorships at the Harvard Graduate School of Design as well as the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio.