n 2014, a crowd of demonstrators stormed Burkina Faso’s National Assembly building, setting it ablaze and ending the nearly 30-year rule of President Blaise Compaoré.
A year later, Burkenabè architect Diébédo Francis Kéré was asked to imagine a new parliamentary building — one that would reflect a more democratic future for the West African nation. Kéré conceived a six-story stepped pyramid that slopes up gently from the ground, inviting citizens to gather, climb and take in views of the capital city, Ouagadougou. The ruins of the former parliament building next door would be transformed into a rainwater-collecting memorial park.
The project remains a ways off: Burkina Faso continues to struggle with political unrest, including a coup d’état in January 2022. But Kéré’s fast-growing prominence may improve the odds that his vision will eventually materialize. In March, he became the first African architect to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the design field’s top honor.
Kéré’s work is focused on promoting stability and sustainability in some of the world’s most vulnerable and threatened places. He’s turned his studio in Berlin into a laboratory for research on materials that can both withstand and deescalate climate change. With his Germany-based nonprofit association, Kéré Foundation e. V., he’s designed and built schools, hospitals and public buildings in countries with limited resources that are facing extreme weather.
Kéré recently spoke with Bloomberg CityLab about how energy, water and transportation frame his thinking about sustainability and what that means for the communities in which he works.