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African Architecture Spotlight: Lycée Schorge

by Nick Lancaster, Associate, BrightGuide Africa

African Architecture spotlight: Lycée Schorge

In this monthly series, BrightGuide showcases a sample of the many varied and striking architectural styles that run through the continent. The series explores how different built environments interact with their local contexts and surroundings, shining a light on a range of aesthetics from beauty, to innovation, to sheer quirkiness. 

As you may have seen in one of our #ArtFriday posts last month, there was some pretty seismic news within the world of Africa and architecture. Diébédo Francis Kéré, one of the great architects of the continent, was revealed as the 2022 Laureate for the most prestigious award in his field: the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In receiving this coveted annual prize, Kéré became the first African to do so since the award was created in 1979.

This month’s African Architecture spotlight: Lycée Schorge discusses Kéré the architect before focusing on one of his many triumphs, a secondary school called “Lycée Schorge”.

Diébédo Francis Kéré: experience-shaped design

Kéré’s architectural style has become in part defined by his staunch commitment to access and equality for marginalised groups in society. Speaking to Pritzker, he describes how experiences from his own upbringing guide his design approach today: “My days were filled with securing food and water, but also simply being together, talking together, building houses together”.

Kéré was born and raised in a rural village called Gando in eastern Burkina Faso. After studying in Berlin, Kéré kickstarted his architectural career by returning to his home to build Gando Primary School in 2001. In doing so he opened up a new opportunity for children in and around Gando to attend school.

That building was described by Kéré to Dezeen as “a modern building that is not westernised, and not a traditional African building” and this infusion of the old and the new to create something unique has captured much of his later work.

Lycee Schorge Secondary School’s traditions and inventions

This is no more the case than in Kéré’s “Lycée Schorge Secondary School” – a circular shaped secondary school located on the edge of Koudougu, Burkina Faso’s third largest city.

school on sunny day
Credit: @arquitecturaviva_

Built in 2016, Kéré’s design continues to be held together by the same underscoring principles that led to the development of Gando Primary School: increasing access to quality education for young people in and around Koudougu, whilst using locally sourced materials to achieve this aim through both inventive and sustainable means.

The school’s design hinges around 9 “modules” that come together in what resembles a “C” shape. Within each of the modules are classrooms, offices, and, in one module, a dental clinic for both students and the surrounding community. On top of the modules lie wind-catching towers which creates a cooling breeze through the classrooms, a product of Kéré’s own personal frustration with boiling hot lessons as a child.

One of the more eye-catching local materials selected by Kéré was laterite stone, first cut into blocks before being allowed to naturally harden. By undergoing this process the stone acquires thermal qualities which further cool down the building’s interior, ensuring a high-quality learning environment. The laterite is also responsible for the vivid red hues that run through much of the school.

Working with light, wind and sound

Kéré is also very deliberate with his use of light and sound in the school’s design. For example, he chose to erect wooden dividers -using local eucalyptus wood- to create little pockets of quiet dotted all around the school, enabling students and teachers to chat without being disturbed by sharp rays of light, wind, or dust.

man in corridor
Credit: @iwanbaan

At the heart of the school’s circular design lies a much larger public space that is also buffered from the heat and wind. This functions as a pivotal community space for members of the school, and is used for assembles and any larger-scale events. Steps on the outside of the space form what Kéré’s architecture house describe as a “loosely defined amphitheatre”.

congegration in school courtyard
Credit: @iwanbaan
Changing the paradigm

Ultimately, Kéré achieves a lot through this design. Not only has he elevated the opportunities for learning and inspiration for member’s of the school’s community, he has also fundamentally conveyed the possibility of generating a unique and contemporary structure through local and traditional materials.

This quest to reconfigure architectural practice was acknowledged by Kéré when collecting his Pritzker prize last month: ““I am hoping to change the paradigm, push people to dream and undergo risk”. And with various projects currently in construction, the future of Kéré’s paradigm shift is shining brightly.

Diébédo Francis Kéré
Credit: Liz Eve

If you enjoyed this instalment of our African Architecture spotlight, be sure to check out our article on Morroco’s tranquil Le Jardin Secret from last month. You can also sign up to our monthly newsletter here, which features the African Architecture spotlight and much much more!