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West African Architect Diébédo Francis Kéré Has Made History as First African-Born Winner of the Pritzker Prize–the Nobel Prize of Architecture

A West African architect who won a prestigious industry prize makes it a point to build with local materials and artisans from his home country.

Diébédo Francis Kéré made history on March 15, as the first African-born winner of the Pritzker Prize often referred to as the Nobel prize of architecture.

When he pursued his dream to construct buildings, Kéré did not have awards in mind. Instead, he wanted to build a school in his village in Gando, Burkina Faso, where there was none. 

Architect Diébédo Francis Kéré is the 2022 Pritzker Prize, making history as the first African architect to win the prestigious award. (Photo by Rita Franca/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“This is not just a prize for myself,” Kéré told CNN. “Without having the courage to go back home, and to get my people to join me on the journey to build the school that (launched) my career, this would never have been possible.”

Kéré, the eldest son of the village chief, was seven years old when he first left home to learn. Equipped with a carpentry scholarship at 20 years old, he moved to Germany to further his goal. Kéré returned home and built the Gando Primary School in 2001.

Doctors’ housing in Léo, Burkina Faso. (The Architectural Digest via Francis Kéré)

The architect now owns a firm with locations in his hometown and Germany and has a career spanning multiple decades while using mud and clay instead of concrete and other local natural resources to construct his projects. Kéré’s portfolio includes schools, health centers, community facilities and national assemblies.

“The more local materials you use, the better you can promote the local economy and (build) local knowledge, which also makes people proud,” Kéré said.

Read full story on Atlanta Black Star here.

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