Primary architecture | Íñigo García Odiaga

School of Gando, Diébédo Francis Kéré

The design of the buildings of service for the National Park of the country Dogon in Mali and the visitors’ center of Mopti’s Great Mosque, they are the last projects constructed by Diébédo Francis Kéré.

The way crossed by Francis Kéré is really tortuous hitherto. Born in Gando, a village of Burkina Faso in 1965, was the first person of his people in studying abroad. It finished his studies of architecture in YOUR of Berlin and with a group of friends it formalized an association to construct a school in his natal people, Gando. By means of this association it collected the necessary funds to construct the Primary School in Gando by means of a collaborative process and of community work. The project obtained the prestigious prize Aga Khan of Architecture in 2004, which catapulted his office to the world stardom and provoked that his ideology for an awkward architecture was leaking out of exponential form.

The work of Gando’s school stands out for harmonizing the tradition and the modernity extracting profit from that one to what the people are accustomed. Kéré it reinterprets in his project the essence of the educational space of his people, the meeting of the class under the shade of a tree resting on the scanty available technology.

In a rural culture as the African, the autoconstruction is even very deep-rooted and Kéré contributes his technological knowledge of the modernity to the way of working traditionally and to the collective strongly deep-rooted memory.

Of this merger between the traditional knowledge and the contemporary one, both positions have worked out reinforced. The traditional architecture has taught to the modernity like to adapt to the extreme climate of Burkina Faso. On the contrary the modernity has contributed constructive knowledge and new materials. Opposite to the small and fragile traditional buildings, the arrival of mortars and cements has allowed the improvement of the traditional walls of brick as well as the production of the stablest foundations.

For Francis Kéré the technology is not easily available, needs knowledge and to be formed in a slightly accessible education in Africa, but this point of unfavorable item is replaced fully by a great capacity of work acquired by the need, but also by the development of an idea based on the force of the collectivity. This collective overflowing palpable feeling in Gando, in spite of the lack of means is the mirror of an opposite world represented by Europe, where the knowledge has replaced this collective effort. It is in these crossroads where it is desenvuelto Kéré’s, capable work of being established as a bridge between both cultures.

This reintepretation in steel, wood, aluminium or brick of the traditional knowledge to face the climate or to the place it can take current modals as Glenn Murcutt’s works or already more distant of Pierre Koenig. The architecture of the Australian needs of the connection with the traditional local knowledge in a wide, cultural, climatic, economic or social sense, as the only possible model to project the contemporary architecture in the place.

But these references though nearby in the theoretical aspect the special necessary conditions are far from the methodology of given Kéré to execute the works in Africa. If the first ones realize a tour that we might call normally, in that they execute the work drawn on the paper, Francis Kéré meets often to understanding the work as an open session in which to be introducing changes depending on the price of the materials, of the possibilities of obtaining them or simply of the qualified personnel which he has. A process that enough of the ideal European is far to construct a building.

National park of Bamako and School of Gando, Diébédo Francis Kéré

These days Kéré’s study has finished two new works entrusted by the Foundation Aga Khan for the Culture as commemoration of 50 anniversary of the independence of Mali.

One of them is a center of the visitor in Mopti’s Great Mosque, one of the most important buildings of the country. The visitors’ center is divided in three different buildings, which are connected by the roofs. This fragmentation constructs three small buildings instead of one of big dimensions what grants all the protagonism to the former mosque. All the walls and the tunnel vaults are constructed by blocks of compressed land, which are very adapted to the climatic conditions, in view of his insulating effect. The great eaves, raised respect of the walls, block the force of the Sun and allow a strong ventilation of the walls and the vaults. A resource that provides a natural flow of air. The project recovers in addition the traditional concatenation of public spaces connected to promote the social meeting.

The second project inaugurated by Kéré only a few months ago summarizes in an excellent way the philosophy of his work. Three small buildings solve the new facilities of the renewed National Park of Bamako. A restaurant, as point of meeting and leisure, a sports center and a pavilion of access that formalizes the entry to the park, they are the new functional requirements.

National park of Bamako, Diébédo Francis Kéré

The restaurant is placed on a small rocky formation and adapts to his forms, a clear example of how the architecture adapts to the nature and not upside-down. It is this attitude the one that defines an architecture that does not spend energy in modifying the context. An architecture that spends intelligence and thought to take advantage what the place gives him. For example in the magnificent integration of spectacular conference on the park and the lake, or in a construction that uses the local materials to save in transport preferring this to the aesthetics, they speak about a primary architecture.

Parque Nacional de Bamako, Diébédo Francis Kéré

A primary architecture that prefers the service to the company opposite to other requirements and makes that play on words his of “more ethical, less aesthetic”.

íñigo garcía odiaga . architect

san sebastián. february, 2012

Article is published in ZAZPIKA 26.02.2012

Íñigo García Odiaga

Arquitecto. Editor de NOMU. 1/5 del estudio de arquitectura VAUMM. Vivo en Donosti.

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