Living in different cultures away from their homeland have helped globally acclaimed architects Diébédo Francis Kéré and Lina Ghotmeh think about what they can do in their city as an architect.
“When we are in one place, we take it for granted. I am sure here in Seoul, if you think about the metro and everything, you will think they are normal for you. But for me, it is not normal, so I am curious to explore it,” Kéré said at the “Special Talk: Design for Coexistence” session held during the Herald Design Forum 2023 held Tuesday at the Shilla Seoul.
“Being curious is fundamental if you want to make things that bring changes (to a community). I am always looking what is available and how people have achieved this,” said the Pritzker-winning architect.
Born into a village chief’s family in Burkina Faso in Africa, Kéré left his hometown to study architecture in Germany. When he returned, the architect built Gando Primary School, which was built in collaboration with local residents and has a lot of light coming in despite being built with clay.
“Being in a different place allows you to see better where you grew up. It enriches diversity which is essential in the making of architecture -- and it is essential to us as humans,” said Beirut-born Ghotmeh who founded the Paris-based studio Lina Ghotmeh-Architecture.
“Actually I realized when moving to France that as a world, we don’t have enough diversity. And it also struck me when I was 22 years old, walking in the metro (in Paris), I was like ‘Wow this is amazing.’ People looked so happy, but I was looking at the faces of people that were very serious (in Lebanon),” she said.
The architect looked back on her country which she said lacks social security and public policy and even essential resources such as water and electricity. On top of that, she came to think about how architecture could bring people together in the war-torn country.
Her landmark residential project, Stone Garden, has the wounds of the city's history embedded into it.
“It (experiencing diversity) makes you more enraged actually to make a change and make you feel the urgency of acting,” she said.
Kéré said that, when put in a different culture and unfamiliar place from one’s upbringing, what is important is to be “courageous,” going forward regardless of people’s reaction or judgment about their ambition.
“Never be afraid about a job or opportunity open to you. If you are afraid, then you've lost it already. It is up to you to absorb all these,” Kéré said.
The special talk was moderated by Yoo Hyun-joon, a professor at Hongik University and the founder of Hyunjoon Yoo Architects based in Seoul.