Primary School

Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso by Diébédo Francis Kéré, 2001

A recipient of a 2004 Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the story behind Diébédo Francis Kéré's design for the Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso is even more fascinating that the building itself. It is a story of philanthropy, the importance of education, local tradition and skills, and one man's desire to make it all happen.

Architect Francis Kéré is the first person from Gando - a small town about 200 km (125 miles) from the country's capital Ouagadougou - to study abroad, choosing to pursue an architectural degree in Berlin. Believing that his hometown needed a good school facility, Kéré set up a fund-raising association (Bricks for the Gando School) with friends and eventually received support from the Burkina Faso government organization LOCOMAT to train masons in the technique of compressed earth. In effect the building's undertaking is a mix of local and international components, the latter helping to fund the project though thankfully not influencing its form; rather local climatic concerns are the greatest form-giver.

The simple plan arranges three classrooms linearly, broken by covered outdoor areas. A corrugated metal roof hovers above the load-bearing walls of compressed earth, also used for the ceiling. The roof, wall and ceiling construction all allow for cooling of the interior, an important consideration in Gando.

From the Aga Khan website: " All the people involved in the project management were native to the village, and the skills learned here will be applied to further initiatives in the village and elsewhere. The way the community organized itself has set an example for two neighbouring villages, which subsequently built their own schools as a cooperative effort. The local authorities have also recognized the project’s worth: not only have they provided and paid for the teaching staff, but they have also endeavoured to employ the young people trained there in the town’s public projects, using the same techniques."