Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement

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Primary School

Diébédo Francis Kéré. Primary School

DIÉBÉDO FRANCIS KÉRÉ: I am Diébédo Francis Kéré. I was born in Burkina Faso, in a village called Gando. According to the Western view you may say Gando is very poor. In my home country, to attend primary education, some time you have to walk 20 kilometer a day. In my case, I left my family when I was seven, and to stay by a relative, far away from Gando to attend primary education.

GLENN LOWRY: With the aid of a scholarship, Kéré moved to Germany, where he earned a degree in architecture. In 1998, he founded an NGO called School Bricks for Gando, and with the help of donations, returned home to begin designing and constructing a primary school. His budget was about $30,000, a small sum for such a project.

DIEBEDO FRANCIS KÉRÉ: So we decide to use clay, because clay is an abundant building material, and it costs nothing! But how to make a building made by clay live longer? I change the structure of clay by putting cement in the clay. Clay, sand, water and a little quantity of cement, to make it stronger and to make it look better.

GLENN LOWRY: To protect against driving rain and blistering heat, he built a unique double roof system that protected the clay walls from rain damage, and created natural ventilation in the classrooms.

DIEBEDO FRANCIS KÉRÉ: And it's fascinating because we started to build a small school for 120 children. And now we have something like more than 700 students in this school! In this village! And you will be surprised; this school is one of the best regarding teaching, the best in the region. I feel proud. And now the government has decided that Gando should have an high school. (Laughs) It's unbelievable.