First African wins architecture’s prestigious award after 40 years

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Burkina Faso-born architect ‘Diébédo Francis Kéré’ has won this year’s prestigious Pritzker Prize.

Mr Kéré, 56 years old, is the first-ever African who won the award in its more than 40-year history, which is regarded as the highest honor in the field.

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He has dual citizenship of Burkina Faso and Germany.

On his achievement, he stated that he feels like the “happiest man on this planet” and that he has become the 51st recipient since it was first awarded in 1979.

During his interview, he stated that “I have a feeling of overwhelming honour and a sense of responsibility.”

The architect’s works include the national assemblies of Burkina Faso and Benin, which have been commissioned.

While announcing the winner, the jury noted the architect “raises some fundamental questions of the meaning of permanence and durability of construction in a context of constant technological changes”.

Jury members praised Mr Kéré for combining his architectural works “with his country’s traditions, needs and customs”.

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Kere is famous for building schools, health facilities, housing, civic buildings, and public spaces across Africa, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo and Sudan.

According to Pritzker, he is also a designer as well as servant, improving the lives and experiences of countless citizens in a region of the world that is at times forgotten.”

Kere is most famous for his 2001 project, which he did for a primary school in Gando village, in Burkina Faso, where he was born.

Unlike traditional school buildings, which used concrete, Kere’s innovative design combined local clay fortified with cement to form bricks that helped retain cooler air inside.

He also made a tin roof that protects the building from rains; they also help the air circulation, meaning natural ventilation without any need for air conditioning.

According to the Hyatt Foundation, Kere amused the local residents during the design and building phase, and the number of students at the school increased from 120 to 700.

The project’s success saw the creation of an extension, a library and teachers’ housing in later years.

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