Dezeen Magazine

Diébédo Francis Kéré portrait

"We have to be careful not to condemn" in the face of the climate crisis says Diébédo Francis Kéré

Designing more sustainable structures is not about deciding what is good or bad, but making more carefully considered design decisions, says architect Diébédo Francis Kéré.

The Burkinabe architect told Dezeen that facing the climate crisis in the next decade would be a challenge that requires major reform in the architecture and design industry.

"People will block if you start with strong criticism but at the same time we have to be radical," he told Dezeen. "We have to change our behaviour radically."

The Tippet Rise Art Center pavilion in Montana, USA, provides an example of the necessary material "balance", including a concrete base and logs made from dead trees

However, Kéré does not believe it is right to rule out certain materials, such as concrete, due to their environmental impact. Rather, he advocates taking a more balanced approach.

"We have to be careful not to condemn, but to find a way to the best solution," he said. "It is so important to always try to find a proper balance to it and not to segment those that are bad and those that are good."

"In my own work, I will always use concrete where it's needed structurally," he added. "If timber is a solution, then oh I grab it."

The architect, who founded his practice Kéré Architecture in Berlin, said he aims to make his buildings more environmentally friendly through measures such as using locally and readily available materials and designing structures that do not need air conditioning.

"Less energy is good for the world and that is important in my structures wherever possible," Kéré said.

"I try to see what is locally most available so that I can use it in a building. I try to minimise our costs in terms of material costs, because the construction sector is one of the highest burdens for climate change, and the crisis that we have."

Sarbalé ke by Francis Kéré
Francis Kéré designed the Sarbalé ke pavilion for Coachella so it could be reused as a community centre following the even

Recent projects by Kéré's studio include the Tippet Rise Art Center pavilion in Montana, USA, which comprises bundled logs created from dead trees built atop a concrete base.

Other projects that demonstrate the balance he aims for are the colourful towers he built as a pavilion for last year's Coachella festival, which were designed to be disassembled and used as a community centre following the event.

The Berlin-based architect spoke to Dezeen at the 2020 Interior Design Festival in Toronto, where he was one of the keynote speakers alongside Frida Escobedo, Bethan Laura Wood, Ini Archibong and Yves Behar.

Portrait of Diébédo Francis Kéré is by Astrid Eckert, courtesy of IDS Toronto.