Art & Design

Think Global, Build Social

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War, protests against regimes, mass migration, environmental disasters – Can architecture help bridging differences in a more and more divided world? Architect Francis Kéré proves that it can help bringing people together.

Francis Kéré has a clear vision: "As an architect you have the chance to create meeting spaces. In a more and more divided world you should do that." Born in 1965 in Burkina Faso, Diébédo Francis Kéré came to Germany at the age of 20 years. With a scholarship, he graduated from high school and studied architecture at the Technical University of Berlin. Already then he decided to reinvest his knowledge back into Burkina Faso and established the Kéré Foundation.

In 2005, Francis Kéré founded his own architectural office Kéré Architects. He has undertaken projects in varied countries, including Burkina Faso, Mali, Germany and Switzerland. Kéré's architectural practice has been recognized internationally with awards including the 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture' (2004) for his first building, a primary school in his home village Gando. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Architecture Museum in Munich and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (both in 2016) and has been selected for several exhibitions such as 'Sensing Spaces' at the Royal Academy in London (2014). In 2017 he accepted the professorship for 'Architectural Design and Participation' at the Technical University of Munich.

All of Kérés works shares his innovative construction strategies that combine traditional building techniques and materials of the region with modern engineering methods as well as being spaces where people can meet. In his projects he combines the global thought of what brings people together and then creates social gathering spots. One of his main inspirations is a tree in his home village Gando where everybody meets: "It protects you from the elements, but it does not put a boundary between you and the environment."

In his opinion, there are too many boundaries in the world. He is all about bridging that division, especially between Europe and Africa. His Utopia? "I want to build two towers, one in Ouagadougou – the capital of Burkina Faso – and one in London. They are so high that the people can look at each other."

In spite of all that gaps, Francis Kéré is sure: "The world is better now than before, because it is more transparent." People in Africa have more and more access to information and thus are able to fight for their rights. He is full of positivity, just as is his advice for young, ambitious architects: "Dream big and be resilient. We all need to believe that the good things will always be more than the negative."