Gando Primary School | Francis Kere | Architecture

Primary School Gando, Burkina Faso Francis Kere



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 an exemplar that would raise awareness in the local community 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 of compressed earth blocks.


Climatic comfort is also ensured by the overhanging roof, which shades the façades, by the raising of the corrugated metal roof on a steel truss, allowing cooling air to flow freely between the roof and the ceiling, and through the use of earth blocks for the walls, which absorb heat, moderating room temperature.



School Extension


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. This Problem accompanies the architect the whole time during his entire Projectime in Burkina Faso.



Diébédo Francis Kéré is a young architect from Burkina Faso who studied in Germany.Assisted by his friends, during his study he founded the »Schulbausteine für Gando« association whose main aims are to create buildings that meet climatic demands, and to support the Burkinabe people in their development.Since 1999 Francis Kéré has already taken part in numerous national and international conferences and has given lectures at several European universities.The projects he has been running since 2001 as a free designer are situated worldwide - from Burkina Faso to India.In the year 2004 one of his projects - a primary school in his home village Gando - won the »Aga Khan Award for Architecture«.Besides his occupation as a self-employed planner Francis Kéré has been working as a lecturer at the »Technische Universität Berlin«, »Habitat Unit«, since 2004. His main subjects are housing and urban development, strategies of climatically advantageous building, sustainable utilization of materials, integration of local labour force, and local construction techniques.All these topics he considered in numerous articles in international specialist journals and books.But Francis Kéré does not limit his efforts to architecture. With the help of his association he tries to provide the people of his homeland with innovative development projects and with better future prospects thereby. The band width covers adult education, health care, and economic support for women bearing the greatest share of burdens in his home country.Consequently his motto is »help to self-help«. Only those who take part in the development processes will be able to appreciate their results, to continue, and to save them.

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