In Burkina Faso, the idea of giving back is very important and constitutes the backbone of many communities. Everyone shares the responsibility of the community’s well-being, and this notion solidarity goes beyond borders. That is why when Francis Kéré left to Europe to study, he knew he would eventually return and give something back to the community that raised him. He chose to do so by offering a new development perspective to the village with projects that reach way beyond simple financial support.
Education as the base for development
Francis' stay in Europe showed him that education and professional training are the basis of any social, professional and economic development. For this reason, his first goal was to build a school in Gando to provide primary-level education to children. Since then, several development projects have been set up to improve the living conditions in the village.
Participation creates acceptance
Our guiding principle has always been to help people help themselves. We believe that the key to sustainable development lies in community participation, not only in carrying out a project, but in conceptualizing it in the first place. Participation creates a sense of identification and motivation leading to the projects being valued, preserved and further developed, hence the importance of the people of Gando’s involvement with the projects carried out by the Foundation. Community members on site are trained as construction workers and can use those skills to find work in the region, and earn a living.
"Only those who are involved in the development process can appreciate the results achieved, develop them further and protect them." – Francis Kéré
In Gando, everyone participates in the building process at their own level. Men, women, and even children contribute with their expertise. The men manufacture the clay bricks, lay the foundations, build up the walls and install the roofs. The women beat the clay floors and plaster the walls. Even the children wanted to participate so every morning on their way to school they brought a stone for the Primary School building’s foundation.
Tradition and Innovation
Because of the climate and the rurality of Gando, we want to make sure our construction buildings are as economic and simple as possible. To enable the replication of the building designs by the Gando community to their own houses, we use local material such as clay, abundant in the region. Moreover, the hand-made compressed clay walls have a high thermal mass which participates in keeping the interior spaces cool.
Due to Burkina Faso’s tropical climate, our main priority is to find building designs which are adapted to the region’s dry and rainy seasons, while being aesthetically pleasing. Francis Kéré’s innovative natural ventilation concept keeps the buildings cool without relying on complicated technologies. It consists in a large overhanging tin roof, pulled away from the perforated ceiling, keeping the interior shaded, while protecting the building from the sun and the sand. The hot air inside the classroom rises and is then released through the perforated clay ceiling pulling the cooler air from the outside through the windows. The combination of solar and thermal energy produces air circulation, creating a cooling effect for the classrooms.
The sustainability and durability of our projects stems not only from the finished product, but from the whole implementation process. When a new concept is developed it is first introduced in the school as children accept change more easily than adults. It makes the transition from the school into the community easier, and insures the concept’s durability. By helping the community to help itself our projects make a lasting contribution in Gando.
Learn more about our approach to architecture and design here.
TEDCity2.0, New York, September 2013
Deutsche Welle, June 2014