Francis Kéré: Bridging the gap

Francis Kéré lectures on bridging cultural gaps and "self-building" in his native Burkina Faso.

February 9, 2012
7:00 p.m.

Francis Kéré | Primary School, Gando, Burkina Faso. Credit: Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Architect Francis Kéré will present a lecture entitled “Bridging the Gap.” Kéré is increasingly known for his philosophy of “self-building,” in which he works with communities to develop capacity to monitor climactic circumstances and use local materials. In a discussion of his recent and current projects, which have won both Aga Khan and Holcim Awards, Kéré will consider new ways architects can exchange knowledge with communities and propose new models for practice. In Kéré’s words, “only people who take part in the building process can maintain and spread the word about these architectural projects.”

Diébédo Francis Kéré, from Burkina Faso, studied architecture at the Technische Universität Berlin, in the city where he is now based. As an architect he defines himself as “a bridge between cultures, between the technically and economically developed countries of ‘the north’ and the less developed African countries (of the south)” His projects have focused on education as “the developing concept for his country.” While a student, he founded the association Schulbausteine für Gando e. V, for the funding of his first project, a primary school in his native village. The building, completed in 2001, received the Aga Khan Award. The school’s construction is “the result of a vision, initially verbalized by the architect and realized by the community.”

Subsequently, Kéré has built teachers’ housing for the school in Gando, as well as another school building and a library, enabling 900 children to go to school in the village. He has also completed work on Mali’s National Park in Bamako and the Museum for Earth Architecture in Mopti. In all of his projects, Kéré notes that workers trained through the construction have found work far beyond the region.

Since 2005, Kéré has worked internationally, with projects completed or under construction in Spain, China, Switzerland, and Yemen, among others. Kéré has lectured or taught at a variety of institutions, including the Berlin University of Technology, the Harvard GSD, the Oslo National Academy of Arts, and the University of Venice. Recognized internationally, Kéré has most recently received the 2011 Regional Holcim Award for Africa and Middle East for his work in Morocco.


This lecture is co-sponsored by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union.

The Architectural League is pleased to acknowledge the support of TRESPA for this Current Work lecture. This program is additionally supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.



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