A dual citizen of Burkina Faso and Germany, Diébédo Francis Kéré was recognized by the Pritzker Jury for “empowering and transforming communities through the process of architecture.” Kéré is the first Black architect to ever receive the award in the Pritzker Prize’s 43-year history.
Kéré has long worked in contexts where architecture and infrastructure are largely absent, and, through his commitment to social equity, has used intelligent design to make the most of local materials and building techniques and respond to the natural climate. “Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury, and everyone deserves comfort. We are all interlinked by concerns of climate, democracy and scarcity,” says the architect in explaining his design ethos of global localism.
Some of Kéré’s most significant work has been his designs and advocacy for primary and secondary schools. His design for the Gando Primary School brought together expertise in local building and contemporary design to create a facility that could combat extreme heat and poor lighting conditions with limited resources. The project established the foundation for the architect’s ongoing work in this field.
In addition to his social and climatic concerns with architecture, Kéré’s projects are laced with rich formal symbolism. His 2017 Serpentine Pavilion takes its central shape from the form of a tree and its curved walls are formed by triangular indigo modules — a colour that represents strength and recalls a blue boubou garment that the architect wore as a child. The pavilion’s formal qualities echoed those of Kéré’s buildings in Africa, while the rainwater funnels central to the interior space drew attention to water scarcity.
This year’s Pritzker Jury states that the architect “knows, from within, that architecture is not about the object but the objective; not the product, but the process. Francis Kéré’s entire body of work shows us the power of materiality rooted in place. His buildings, designed for and with communities, are directly of those communities — in their making, their materials, their programs and their unique characters.”
This year’s prize was adjudicated by a jury chaired by the 2016 Pritzker Prize Laureate Alejandro Aravena and including the 2010 and 2012 Laureates, Kazuyo Sejima and Wang Shu, alongside Barry Bergdoll, Deborah Berke, Stephen Breyer, André Aranha Corrêa do Lago, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Manuela Lucá-Dazio.
The acclaimed Burkina Faso-born architect has been recognized with architecture’s highest honour.