“Pritzker”, a prestigious brand of recognition, which goes for the “Nobel” for architecture, has just been awarded to Burkinabè Diébédo Francis Kéré for 2022. His country grew out of it. Africa too.
Burkina, always in the headlines. And this week it’s for the best, as Pritzker, considered the “Nobel” of architecture, has just been awarded the Diébédo Francis Kéré. His work, in Faso, in Africa and around the world, has earned him recognition as a pioneer in sustainable architecture. How do you explain the enthusiasm that seems to arouse his distinction, far beyond his native Burkina?
In addition to his person, the simplicity, humility, and intellectual honesty shown by Diébédo Francis Kéré are some of the hallmarks of the Burkinabé people. Before we start blowing out our breasts in Ouaga, it should be noted that from this rule there are still some exceptions, of course!
It prevents. It is always a joy for African peoples to discover new talented and convincing figures, with these essential qualities of simplicity, humility and empathy. This happiness is all the greater when it occurs while others, with unwavering steadfastness, strive to sow disorder among the people, in order to discredit Africa.
By the choice of materials, this architect shows that the population, including in the most remote villages, did not necessarily sleep under the stars, before the arrival of modernity. As if to make it clear that money, scams and fraud will not have the last word on this continent. And if Africa, despite all that it is subjected to or adds to itself, is still full of women and men of such quality, such talent, with just as much simplicity and humility, then there is room for our certainty of hope!
How do you recognize, so quickly, such qualities in a man that Africa barely discovers?
There are unmistakable signs. First the birth of the architectural work. To start with a school in his village, to know how little chance there was of seeing the spotlight one day arrive in this little corner of the country where he was born, is pure disinterest. Today we no longer talk about the man and his work, but first mention this small school, built by the inhabitants of Gando, with local materials. Benin, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, Togo, the architect’s signature lights up Africa in all its diversity, not to mention Europe, North America … But, no matter the splendor of what he could realize then, the star will always be the village school, and this brand we call sustainable architecture.
So why did Diébédo convince Francis Kéré immediately?
Probably because the values that serve as a viaticum in his work would fit so well into the lives of African nations that would like to move forward. It is not, he says, because you are rich that you should sink into the mess. It is not because you are poor that you should enjoy mediocrity. The poor have the right to beauty, to quality, as much as the rich ”.
With the same precision that he puts into the shapes of the buildings and other buildings he builds, this architect gives the impression of speaking to people’s souls when he tells about his works. And he does it in a moving way, with simple words, precise, sensible expressions, to explain the spirit of what he is thinking. Regarding the National Assembly, entering Ouaga, he says that it is “an emblem to give to democracy, a place that will house an ideal”. “I hope, he insists, that one day there will be leaders who understand this necessity.”