Kéré Foundation Kéré Foundation

The first primary school in Gando - a small wonder

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The Primary School building in Gando is based on the following basic principles: natural climatic concept, the use of local materials, and participation and training of the village community during construction.

How school-life has changed since the construction of the first primary school

For a long time, there was no elementary school in Gando, a community of around 3000 inhabitants. Francis Kéré himself had to leave his village and stay with relatives in order to attend primary school –and this was an exception in Gando. The old elementary school building was made out of hollow cement blocks with a low corrugated metal ceiling inside of which the room temperature rises astronomically. 80 to 100 children used to be in a small classroom that burned their fingers when they touched the ceiling. In these “toasters,” as Francis Kéré calls them, learning was difficult.

Today, thanks to the two schools built by Francis Kéré, the students from Gando are among the best in the country. Between the Primary School, the School Extension and the Secondary School, almost 1,000 children and young people are now taught in Gando.

Climatic Concept

Clay bricks were used for the walls to provide thermal protection against the hot climate. Despite their durability, however, the walls must still be protected from damaging rains with a large overhanging tin roof. Many houses in Burkina Faso have corrugated metal roofs which absorb the heat from the sun, making the interior living space intolerably hot. To avoid such a situation, the roof of the Primary School was pulled away from the interior and a perforated clay ceiling with ample ventilation was introduced. This dry-stacked brick ceiling allows for maximum ventilation, pulling cool air in from the interior windows and releasing hot air out through the perforated ceiling. In turn, the ecological footprint of the school is vastly reduced by alleviating the need for air-conditioning. The three classrooms are separated by protected buffer zones, used as outdoors spaces that the children can use to study and play.

Building with the community

Although the plans for the Primary School were drawn by Francis Kéré, the success of the project can be attributed to the close involvement of the local community. Traditionally, members of a whole village community work together to build and repair homes in rural Burkina Faso, and this tradition was kept when building the Primary School. In order to do so, low-tech and sustainable techniques were developed and improved so that the Gando inhabitants could participate in the process. Traditional building techniques were utilized alongside modern engineering methods in order to produce the best quality building possible while simplifying construction and maintenance for the workers. Thanks to the entire village’s participation in the construction process, people were later able to apply the learned techniques to their own houses and in further building projects.

The example of this elementary school has inspired two neighboring villages to build their own school with the help of their village’s community. The value of the project has also been recognized by local authorities: they not only pay the elementary school’s teachers, but also hire the young people trained in Gando for official construction projects.

AWARDS: Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2004 / Global Award for Sustainable Architecture 2009