Diebedo Francis Kere becomes first African to win prestigious architecture prize

Kere was honoured for pioneering designs that are sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants.


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Burkinabe architect Diebedo Francis Kere was awarded the Pritzker Prize. – AFP
Burkinabe architect Diebedo Francis Kere was awarded the Pritzker Prize. – AFP

Published: Tue 15 Mar 2022, 7:32 PM

The Pritzker Prize, architecture’s most prestigious award, was awarded Tuesday to Burkina Faso-born architect Diebedo Francis Kere, organizers announced — the first African to win the honour in its more than 40-year history.

Kere was honoured for “pioneering” designs that are “sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants — in lands of extreme scarcity,” Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Hyatt Foundation that sponsors the award, said in a statement.

Kere, a dual citizen of Burkina Faso and Germany, is the 51st recipient of the illustrious prize.

He is renowned for building schools, health facilities, housing, civic buildings and public spaces in many countries in Africa, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Mozambique, Togo, and Sudan.

“He is equally architect and servant, improving upon the lives and experiences of countless citizens in a region of the world that is at times forgotten,” said Pritzker.

The statement noted that Kere “empowers and transforms communities through the process of architecture,” designing buildings “where resources are fragile and fellowship is vital.”

“Through his commitment to social justice and engagement, and intelligent use of local materials to connect and respond to the natural climate, he works in marginalized countries laden with constraints and adversity, where architecture and infrastructure are absent,” the organizers said.

Kere has previously won plaudits for his project for a primary school in Burkina Faso and has held solo museum shows in Munich and Philadelphia.

He was also one of the architects behind Geneva’s International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum.

In 2017, Kere became the first African architect to design a temporary pavilion in London’s Hyde Park, a prestigious assignment given to a world-famous architect every year.

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