artikelfotoBurkina Faso
Francis Kéré - Philosopher, Activist, Architect
Kunst, 19 Mar 2013

One of the most remarkable articles in the January 2013 issue of ArchiAfrika Magazine is about a school project in Gando, Burkina Faso, and its local born architect Diébédo Francis Kéré. The project won the Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012 and was praised as an “outstanding environment” by an international jury.
Sustainable construction is an important responsibility for professional architects and designers worldwide and is intrinsically linked to improving quality of life and the effectiveness of the built environment.

To support the promotion of sustainable construction, the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction conducts international competitions for projects and visions on the leading edge of improving sustainability. The top prize in the USD 2 million Awards was won by a school project in Faso that uses a hybrid building technique while at the same time showcasing outstanding social and environmental performance.

The Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012 was presented to Berlin-based architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, himself a son of the village headman of Gando, Burkina Faso where his latest school complex for more than 1,000 children is being constructed.

The project was selected by an independent international jury, winning the top prize ahead of a multifunctional public building by Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) in the slums of São Paulo, and the “Flussbad” urban transformation project in central Berlin of realities:united.

The architect needed to convince the locals of the durability and strength of clay which is poured and cast similar to concrete, improving its structural performance by adding a small proportion of cement. The approach uses clay and stones that are collected from land adjacent to the village, and introduces new and more sustainable construction techniques. Diverse design aspects of the project address the challenging weather conditions with temperatures peaking above 40°C. For the interior climate, the natural ventilation cooling effect is enhanced by routing air through underground tubes, planting vegetation, and the use of double-skin roofs and façades to achieve a remarkable temperature reduction.

Head of the jury, Enrique Norten (Mexico), explained the exemplary nature of the project in terms of its successful approach to the adaptive use of building materials, community development, climatic mitigation and aesthetics. “This beautiful school is not only an elegant design solution, but it also delivers training and employment, uses local building materials, and – with simple means – creates an outstanding environment from a social perspective and also in constructive terms,” he said.

This school project aims to provide further education to the inhabitants of a rural area. Gando, with a population of 3000, has no secondary education facilities and lies on the southern plains of Burkina Faso, some 200km from Ouagadougou. Diverse design aspects of the project consider the challenging weather conditions and high summer temperatures. The natural ventilation cooling effect is enhanced by routing air through underground tubes, planting vegetation, and the use of double-skin roofs and façades to achieve a significant thermal reduction – enhancing indoor comfort and creating conditions are far more conducive to education.

Energy consumption during construction and operation has been reduced to a minimum using only the sun and wind. The collection of scarce rainwater is integrated into the planting concept and is used to irrigate newly-planted trees that are intended to help consolidate previously exploited vegetation. Completed projects including an elementary school and library contributed to the evolving research and development process concerning design concepts, technologies and materials.

The project has been adapted to use larger clay elements cast in place instead of bricks for wall construction. Most of the construction materials are locally available: granite stones for the base, clay and fast-growing eucalyptus wood, mainly used as firewood.

The cornerstone of education

The deep motivation of the architect is to improve the quality of life for the people of his home village of Gando. Burkina Faso has a literacy rate of only 22% so most people have no alternative to farming. There is a chronic shortage of secondary schools in the country because in the past, only primary schools have been supported financially by foreign institutions and the Burkinabe government. Through educational programs for adults and a public library, the schools in Gando are open to the community and will address adult literacy and contribute to the village’s social capital.

Building skills and a stronger community

The second aim of the school project is to create a platform for meeting, learning and teaching – which has been considered as a good model of community work throughout the country. The project has also enhanced job prospects for the young workers who were trained in the construction techniques. It is of a great importance to teach and train locals in the use of new techniques in order to enhance their independence and sustainability of the building process. The project motivates the community through creating new jobs where traditional techniques are combined with new know-how.

Reforestation is part of the design and climate concept of the school project. The trees and grasses filter the air from dust and create high-quality community space. The students are responsible for the newly planted trees and water them via a specially designed irrigation system that carries the water directly to the root. This system is used until the roots reach deep enough for the ground water.

The journey goes on

Diébédo Francis Kéré continues to work tirelessly on his complex in Gando. “At the beginning I just wanted to build a tiny primary school; but you only live once. And who gets the opportunity to design his environment in the way that I can now in Gando?” Because of the importance attached to literacy in Burkina Faso, many primary schools were built – and secondary education was largely forgotten. Many young people have received only a primary school education and are not qualified for skilled occupations. “But a country needs good technicians; a primary school education is not enough,” Kéré remarks.
Holcim Foundation
This article first appeared in ArchiArika Magazine and is re-published here with the permission of ArchiAfrika. In the second half of 2012, ArchiAfrika moved its headquarters from Amsterdam to Accra. The implications of the new location and other aspects of the move to Accra are widely discussed in the issue. Some other main articles are a review of a book by David Adjaye on Africa's capital cities, a conversation on creativity and poliitics with Amos Anyimadu and Professor Korang and a call for regenerative architecture titled The Slow Death of the Mauritian's Architectural Identity. Photographs for this article courtesy Holcim Foundation.

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Sites bij dit artikel:

Holcim Foundation

Kunst en Cultuur
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Burkina Faso
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