How Does Francis Kéré use Materials to Respond to Local Climate Conditions?

Clay walls are thermally inert. Clay walls act as a climate buffer, slowing down heat flow from the outside to the interior. This material is ideal for dry and hot climates like the one in Gando where Francis Kere built his first school. Kere returned home to his hometown after years of study abroad with the intent of building the school using the same materials used by locals. Many initially thought this was strange. Despite initial prejudices, the project was ultimately strengthened by Kere’s combination of local techniques and materials with his acquired knowledge.

It is not possible to provide thermal comfort in extreme climates like Burkina Faso without using electrical devices. These passive strategies must be well-thought out. It is vital to have plenty of natural ventilation. All classrooms in the Primary School, as well as its expansion in Gando have openings at the ends. This allows for cross ventilation. The ceilings have small openings that allow warm, lighter air to rise, cooling the room. Through the free space between the walls, the heat from the metal roof is reduced, and air circulates from inside to outside. This creates a pleasant learning environment for children. These coverings protect the building from the sun and from rainy periods, thus protecting the materials. The metallic tiles were selected for their performance and aesthetic appeal. They are also available locally, as well as the support structure of the rebar. This is a principle that guides Kere’s work wherever ever he goes.

School Library Gando / Kere Architecture. Image Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

Kere’s projects, apart from Gando Primary School use local materials in innovative and smart ways to adapt to heat, rainwater and other climate conditions that are unique to West African communities. Below are some examples of notable projects that used traditional materials and other constructive techniques to give you a better understanding of how Kere’s architecture adapts to the context.

Skylights and intermediate spaces

Gando Primary School Library. Gando, Burkina Faso

School Library Gando / Kere Architecture. Image Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

This case, like many Kere buildings, emphasized comfort. It sought to create a quiet and open space for students to learn and relax. Eucalyptus wood, which is commonly used in Burkina Faso to make firewood, was used in the facade in a rhythmic fashion, creating a shaded area that protects the sun. To adapt to the climate, the roof construction incorporates a technical innovation. Traditional clay pots were used to provide natural lighting and ventilation. Kere takes advantage of this cultural item and transforms it into a practical construction element that can filter light, generate passive air circulation, and create a wonderful sensory experience.

Modularity and earthy colours

Leo Doctor’s Housing. Leo, Burkina Faso

2018 Léo Doctor's Housing. Léo, Burkina Faso. Image © Jaime Herraiz

This modular accommodation project was designed to create a safe and comfortable environment for medical professionals. A double-layer wall is constructed from locally-sourced concrete blocks and compress stabilized earth blocks (CEB). The dual layers provide structural integrity and thermal mass. This keeps the interiors cool throughout the day. The exterior walls are protected from weather-related degradation with a coat of colored plaster. The interior ceiling, made of CEB is a single vault. The ends are left open for passive ventilation and daylight. A corrugated metal roof is added to the ceiling. This protects the building from heat and shelters users from the sun and rain. The sloped roof is used to direct rainwater into an on-site reservoir. This water can then be used for irrigation.

Filtered cool and light breeze

SKF-RTL Children Learning Centre. Nyang’oma Kogelo, Kenya

2020 Burkina Institute of Technology. Koudougou, Burkina Faso. Image © Iwan Baan

This project serves as an educational facility. The walls are made from compressed earth bricks that were made on-site. They are carefully laid to match the building’s smooth curves. These openings are broken up by bamboo log panels, which act as natural lattices and allow for cool breezes to flow through the space. An elevated steel butterfly roof gives shade and allows air to circulate through the space. Rainwater can be collected in the center. This creates an ideal environment for education and provides a comfortable indoor climate.

Good performance is key to transforming a local material

Noomdo Orphanage. Koudougou (Burkina Faso).

Noomdo Orphanage / Kéré Architecture. Image © Iwan Baan

The orphanage was inspired by nearby residential areas. It is structured by a series a clusters around a central courtyard. Kere says that the outdoor flooring and walls are made from locally sourced laterite stone. This material was once rejected by the local population because it was considered “a poor people’s material.” However, projects like these helped to break the stigma and show the material’s potential with the right construction techniques. Laterite is easily extracted from the earth and can be shaped into red bricks that harden in the sun. The material is a great source of thermal mass, as it has a high capacity to absorb and radiate heat at night. Each window can be adapted to different climate conditions. Fresh air can be pushed towards the interior by adding an air vent. A double-skin roof, which is a barrel vault and a canopy supported on steel trusses, allows hot air to escape upwards.

Gando Primary School Extension / Kéré Architecture. Image © Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk

Local materials and traditional methods of construction offer many advantages. They are affordable, readily available, and sustainable for the environment. They can also help to stimulate the local economy and strengthen cultural identity. Additionally, they are simple to teach skills, which empower entire communities. Kere’s projects can be used in a way that is sensitive to the climate. This allows them to provide comfort, security, and high-quality architecture. This is crucial for improving quality of life in areas without electricity or clean water. According to the Pritzker Prize jury, Kere’s buildings “are tied to the ground upon which they are placed and to the people who live within them”.

Related Posts

On the Latest Representation Trends and Immersive Experiences in Virtual Design Platforms: SpaceForm x CRA

Comments Off on On the Latest Representation Trends and Immersive Experiences in Virtual Design Platforms: SpaceForm x CRA

Dutch Design: A Building Made from Biobased Materials Illustrates the Possibilities Of Circular Design

Comments Off on Dutch Design: A Building Made from Biobased Materials Illustrates the Possibilities Of Circular Design

Pelli Clarke And Partners Wins Competition for the New Yibin Station Gateway Development in China

Comments Off on Pelli Clarke And Partners Wins Competition for the New Yibin Station Gateway Development in China

Form, Function – Freedom? Modernism, Ocean Liners, and Class

Comments Off on Form, Function – Freedom? Modernism, Ocean Liners, and Class

PLP Architecture Unveils Masterplan of Tokyo Cross Park Vision

Comments Off on PLP Architecture Unveils Masterplan of Tokyo Cross Park Vision

Burnt Cement vs Porcelain Tile: Resignifying Aesthetics in Architecture

Comments Off on Burnt Cement vs Porcelain Tile: Resignifying Aesthetics in Architecture

Henning Larsen Reveals one of the Largest Contemporary Wood Structures in Denmark

Comments Off on Henning Larsen Reveals one of the Largest Contemporary Wood Structures in Denmark

Innovative Ceramic Surfaces for a Healthy Return to Movie Theaters

Comments Off on Innovative Ceramic Surfaces for a Healthy Return to Movie Theaters

Fotografiska Announces Three New Locations in Berlin, Shanghai and Miami, Becoming the Largest Private Art Museum

Comments Off on Fotografiska Announces Three New Locations in Berlin, Shanghai and Miami, Becoming the Largest Private Art Museum

How Can Architecture Combat Flooding? 9 Practical Solutions

Comments Off on How Can Architecture Combat Flooding? 9 Practical Solutions

Snøhetta Reveals New Design of the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth University

Comments Off on Snøhetta Reveals New Design of the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth University

Perkins And Will: Research and Innovation at the Forefront of a New Business Opportunity

Comments Off on Perkins And Will: Research and Innovation at the Forefront of a New Business Opportunity

Create Account



Log In Your Account