200 words #30 / Francis Kéré

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Gando residents carrying ceramic pots to be used in the roof of the Gando School Library – Image courtesy Francis Kéré Architecture

So much architecture in Burkina Faso looks cobbled together and unfinished. Rebar pokes through the tops of walls on the off chance of a new layer of cement. Brick walls are dotted with cavities to allow air to circulate, and corrugated metal roofs sit lightly on lattices of thin girders. Dust covers everything, and neighbourhoods, as much as they may be rising from that dust, look as though they are returning to it.

Francis Kéré has built an international architectural practice by distilling the essence of this dusty yet elegant functionality of design and articulating it through traditional Burkinabe building methods. Although Kéré’s portfolio now includes diverse and celebrated projects such as the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion, it is in earlier projects such as the Gando School Library where the use of local materials can be appreciated to fullest effect. In the buildings Kéré produced for his home village of Gando – a primary school, a later school extension, and the school library – he honed some of the key features of his style: exploiting the straightforward beauty of raw materials, and making the manipulation of light and the effective circulation of air fundamental principles from the very beginning of the design process.   

Gando School Library under construction, Interior reception space – Image courtesy Francis Kéré Architecture
Installing pots on the roof of the Gando School Library – Image courtesy Francis Kéré Architecture
Gando School Library in March 2013 – Image courtesy Francis Kéré Architecture