TU Berlin alumnus Diébédo Francis Kéré has received major recognition for his work as recipient of the Pritzker Prize, the world's most significant architecture award. The 100,000-dollar prize is awarded annually by the Hyatt Foundation. This is the first time the prize has gone to an African architect.
"Francis Kéré is pioneering architecture - sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants – in lands of extreme scarcity. He is equally architect and servant, improving upon the lives and experiences of countless citizens in a region of the world that is at times forgotten," the jury said in a statement.
Diébédo Francis Kéré was born in 1965 in Gando, a small town in Burkina Faso. Aged just seven, he had to leave his family to attend school as there was no suitable school in his home town. In the 1980s he came to Germany, completing his schooling here before enrolling at TU Berlin to study architecture in 1995. His difficult educational path developed a feeling of obligation to do something for education in his homeland. After completing the first stage of his Diplom degree in 1998, he decided to construct a school building in his home town. Then just as now it was important for him to work with local materials and to involve local people in the project.
He received expert support in completing his project for an elementary school from Professor Peter Herrle, at that time head of the Chair of Architecture and International Urbanism HABITAT UNIT at TU Berlin as well as Professor Ingrid Goetz. The Gando Primary School project marked Diébédo Francis Kéré's first major success. In 2004, he received the Aga Kahn Award for Architecture. This is regarded as the Nobel Prize for Architecure of the Islamic World and its recipients are renowned international architects. Diébédo Francis Kéré was the first person to receive the award at such an early stage in their career. He completed his architecture studies in 2003 and set up his own architecture office in Berlin in 2005.
Soon thereafter he designed further elementary schools and secondary schools as well as universities and medical facilities in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mozambique, and Uganda. Many of Kéré's buildings are located in Africa. He has also constructed pavilions and installations in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA.