Diébédo Francis Kéré appeared on our screen with the Aga Khan Award in 2004. I wrote about him in the newspaper El País in December of that year, and the Yearbook released shortly after (AV 111-112) covered prominently the now mythical school in Gando. But he was still a blurry figure, that we could only imagine as a counterpoise to the urbane sophistication of David Adjaye, pigeonholed in the conventional box of ‘African architect.’ In the following decade, through personal contact and better knowledge of the work, his profile became sharper and his stature higher, coming into focus as a charismatic character, endowed with talent and empathy to develop the skills of leadership that he now so evidently shows. What follows is the account of this itinerary of discovery.
When we first invited him to Spain in 2008, to exhibit his work in ExpoZaragoza and to lecture in Madrid, we still called him ‘Diébédo,’ a name meaning, as we would later learn, ‘he who came to improve things.’ But in the exhibition at the Spanish Pavilion under the title ‘Zaragoza Kyoto: Architectures for a Sustainable Planet,’ he shared the space with, among others, Lacaton... [+]