Our Focus Editor, Julie Kenney has been keeping tabs on the Design Indaba Conference, and here’s her reportback for Day 1:
Day one of the Design Indaba featured an impressive line-up of design heavyweights from around the world, but the one that stood out the most was architect Diébédo Francis Kéré from Burkina Faso. There were no fancy slideshows or techie tricks: he spoke with passion, drive and energy – and literally had the audience enthralled. I was humbled and inspired by what he had to say.
Having grown up in a rural village, Kéré had the opportunity to study architecture in Germany and continues to bring back knowledge and development to “his people”.
Kéré chose not to speak about ‘Modern Architecture in Africa’ but rather “how to build a straight wall that would keep the rain out”. This is what is relevant in one of the poorest African countries with an 80% illiteracy rate. Kéré pays particular care to climatic demands and infrastructure when designing buildings and chooses not to look to the West when building in Africa. His motto is “help to self-help” and he aims to provide his people with innovative development projects and with better future prospects. Kéré focuses on local construction techniques (often from older generations), use of sustainable materials and the integration of a local labour force.
One of his first projects was to build a school in his village, Gando. Kéré involved the villagers to become part of this project from collecting stones, to making clay bricks to the choice of paint colours. Every detail is handmade using local materials and basic tools. The floor is formed from roughly chipped stones combined with water that are beaten (rhythmically, to music) with wooden paddles and then finally polished to produce the most level and smooth surface.
Special attention is placed on the cooling of the building by using open spaces for airflow, allowing enough space for future expansion and making use of all areas for various tasks. At the completion of a project like this, a sense of pride and ownership is seen in the locals. This particular building was completed over 10 years ago and has not needed any maintenance since.