Kéré Architecture Kéré Architecture

Primary school, Gando, Burkina Faso

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This project was designed in 1999. It was the first building of the architect and it was completed while the architect was still studying. 

To achieve sustainability, the project was based on the principles of designing for climatic comfort with low-cost construction, making the most of local materials and the potential of the local community, and adapting technology from the industrialized world in a simple way. It was also conceived as a standard model that could be copied within the community and would raise awareness of the merits of traditional materials. 

Climatic considerations largely determined the building’s form and materials. Three classrooms are arranged in a linear fashion and separated by covered outdoor areas that can be used for teaching and play. The structure comprises traditional load-bearing walls made from stabilized and compressed earth blocks. Concrete beams run across the width of the ceiling, and steel bars lying across these support a ceiling also made of compressed earth blocks. The corrugated metal roof sits on a steel truss, allowing cool air to flow freely between the roof and the ceiling. The roof also has a large overhang, which shades the facades and helps to ensure climatic comfort. Room temperature is additionally moderated by the earthen walls, which absorb heat.

The roof form was dictated by practical considerations: it was not possible to transport large elements to the site from afar, nor economically viable to use lifting machinery such as cranes. Instead, the architect devised a process whereby common construction steel bars were used to create lightweight trusses, with corrugated metal sheeting laid on top to form the roof. All that was necessary was to teach people how to use a handsaw and a small welding machine. 

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. 

The biggest challenge was how to explain the design and drawings to people who can neither read nor write. The architect faces this challenge in all of his projects in Burkina Faso.

completion year: 2001
gross floor area: 310m²
client: village community Gando