At The Optimist Daily we like to highlight milestones in the movement for equality, like when Maya Angelou became the first Black woman to be featured on a US coin or when St.Louis elected Tishaura Jones their first black female mayor.
The latest triumph comes from the world of architecture, where Burkina Faso born Diébédo Francis Kéré just won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award in his field. He is the first Black person to ever win this award, and his sustainable, elegant, and innovative designs speak for themselves
What is the Pritzker Prize?
The Pritzker Prize honors a living architect or architects whose talent, vision, and commitment to craft are demonstrated in their built work which also shows a consistent and significant contribution to humanity and the environment. It has been offered since 1979. The winner receives $100,000, a bronze medallion, and worldwide recognition.
“Can you imagine?” Kéré exclaimed to NPR. “I was born in Burkina Faso, in this little village where there was no school. And my father wanted me to learn how to read and write very simply because then I could then translate or read him his letters.”
Design informed by experience
The architect took inspiration from his childhood for many of his designs. Remembering hot classrooms over 100 degrees Fahrenheit with little sunlight coming through, he wanted to improve learning for the next generation. “I am creating a huge canopy for many, many children, to be happy and learn how to read and write,” he explained.
In Kéré’s beautiful designs for Gando Primary School and Naaba Belem Goumma Secondary School in Burkina Faso, he drew inspiration from traditional building materials such as concrete mixed with clay and emphasized shade and ventilation with the hope of creating an oasis for the students.
“He knows, from within, that architecture is not about the object but the objective; not the product, but the process,” stated the 2022 Jury Citation. “Francis Kéré’s entire body of work shows us the power of materiality rooted in place. His buildings, for and with communities, are directly of those communities – in their making, their materials, their programs, and their unique characters.”
Kéré’s sustainable designs improve the lives and experiences of countless individuals, bringing practicality, beauty, and boldness into his buildings.