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[Herald Design Forum 2023] Diébédo Francis Kéré emphasizes role of architecture in sustainable future

Sept. 19, 2023 - 15:47 By Park Ga-young
Diébédo Francis Kéré, the winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2022, talks during The Herald Design Forum 2023 on Tuesday at The Shilla Seoul. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Diébédo Francis Kéré, the winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize 2022, emphasized the role of architecture in creating a better future with inspiring stories of designing sustainable buildings.

“In the past, it was a competition to create wealth. The decision-makers were forced to create space and investors would have to create space for us to live. But nowadays, together, we have to think, 'How will we achieve all of this with respect to saving nature for the generations to come?'” Kéré told the audience during The Herald Design Forum 2023 on Tuesday at The Shilla Seoul.

His philosophy for architecture -- structures that value nature and social relationships and how the process can contribute to the lives of local people -- is evident in his works that were built with a pioneering communal approach to design and his commitment to sustainable and locally available materials.

The first architect from the African continent to win a Pritzker was born in Burkina Faso, a country with a population of 22 million that has suffered from recurrent droughts and political instability. He trained to be a carpenter before moving to Germany to study architecture.

As a student, he said he wanted to do something for his community and came up with the idea of building a school using clay. The primary school is the first ever building he designed, raised the funds for and realized in collaboration with the residents of his native Gando, Burkina Faso. For this project, which was just the beginning of a long list of pioneering projects, he was awarded the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004.

"I think people are happy when using locally available materials and creating architectures that contain local characters," he noted, adding that local materials can have better sustainability.

Later, he designed many other prominent projects including the Benin National Parliament, which is currently under construction, the Kamwokya Community Center in Uganda (2022) and the Startup Lions Campus in Kenya (2021), Xylem Pavilion (2019), a gathering pavilion for the Tippet Rise Art Center.

In 2022, he won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2022 in recognition of his communal approach to design and his commitment to using sustainable materials.

Kéré also emphasized the importance of education, saying that “I was able to do that because I had access to education.”

He also expressed his hope for Korea’s role in sustainable architecture.

“Korea will play again a big role, like they did in the industry, for the well-being of the people as well as environmental protection,” he noted.