Architect Francis Kéré: 'Buildings need to breathe'

November 2008 -

"Communal spirit is the basis of traditional life in Africa. In my work as an architect, that is one of my biggest motives. The school in Gando, where I was born, is an excellent example." Francis Kéré is a young architect from Burkina Faso who studied in Berlin. Constant values in his work are sustainability and extensive involvement in the development of his homeland.


Kéré established his reputation with the design of a school in Gando. The building is not only aesthetically appealing but also climate friendly. Striking is the fact that clay was used as the primary construction material. "Concrete is often used in Africa because it is inexpensive and it provides for speedy construction. But concrete is ugly and it absorbs much heat, meaning that many buildings need air conditioning. Walls of clay provide cooling. This makes it possible for buildings to breathe, which is necessary because it provides more comfort."

Kéré developed a technique for treating clay that gives the material a much longer life but does not require yearly applications like the famous buildings in Djenné in neighbouring Mali. "We made the clay blocks on site. The local population was involved so that they could learn the new construction techniques. My approach to construction and architecture is not based on speed, of course, but specifically on sustainability. In the long term, that is in the best interest of us all."

In September 2008 Francis Kéré was present at Surprising Africa (part of PICNIC).