The Berlin-based architect from Burkina Faso is the first African and first black person to receive this distinction, the first in four decades of the prestigious award.
After studying carpentry and receiving a scholarship to the Carl Duisberg Society Kéré went on to study architecture at the Technical University of Berlin where he has resided ever since. He has been lauded for his focus on people-centred Architecture and the utilisation of indigenous materials and local symbols in his work. His work includes another primary, secondary, postsecondary, and medical facilities is known throughout the continent, specifically in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya and Mozambique.
In a statement, Pritzker Prize organisers said, “Through his commitment to social justice and the intelligent use of local materials to adapt and respond to the natural climate, he works in marginalized countries, where constraints and difficulties are many and where architecture and infrastructure is absent.”
“He builds contemporary educational institutions, health facilities, professional housing, civic buildings and public spaces, often in countries where resources are fragile and fraternity is vital.”
Kéré said of the award, “I am hoping to change the paradigm, push people to dream and undergo risk. It is not because you are rich that you should waste material. It is not because you are poor that you should not try to create quality, […] Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury, and everyone deserves comfort. We are interlinked and concerns in climate, democracy, and scarcity are concerns for us all.”
His first big project in 1998 was the creation of the association Schulbausteine für Gando e.V. (now Kéré Foundation), which translates to “Building Blocks for Gando”. At the time of his birth in Gando, there was no electricity or public water systems, and the literacy level was below 25%. Kéré’s objective was to fund the construction of a primary school for his village, combining the knowledge he had gained in Europe, with traditional building methods from Burkina Faso. Kéré was still at college when the project was completed.
In 2004 the renowned architect and activist received the 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. In 2009 he won a Global Award for Sustainable Architecture for his collaborative process developed with Gando inhabitants and innovative, local and ecological techniques and materials. He also designed the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion in Hyde Park, London.