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Rethinking History: New Architecture in Burkina Faso

The history and architecture of Burkina Faso is tied to its landscape. As a landlocked country in western Africa, it occupies an extensive plateau with grassy savannas and sparse forests. More than two-thirds of the people live in rural villages, and as such, the country’s modern architecture is the product of ingenuity born from reimagining traditional building materials and techniques.

A former French colony, Burkina Faso gained independence as Upper Volta in 1960. The name Burkina Faso, which means “Land of Incorruptible People,” was adopted in 1984. The capital, Ouagadougou, is in the center of the country, and most of the country’s population is at higher elevations away from the Volta river valleys. Located in the Sahel region, Burkina Faso experiences some of the world’s most radical climatic variation, from extreme drought to severe flooding. This has given way to an architecture that is responsive, adaptable, and tied to the surrounding context.

Known for his work in Gando, architect Diébédo Francis Kéré of Kéré Architecture brought new attention to the country through his innovative use of local materials. Working with corrugated metal and replacing concrete with locally made mud bricks, his projects address the landscape of Burkina Faso and its seasons. This is echoed by the work of other designers and groups like Albert Faus and FAREStudio, where architecture is inherently tied to materials, tectonics, and local site conditions. The following projects showcase how these architects are pioneering different approaches to contemporary and vernacular techniques while reinterpreting the history of Burkina Faso. Continue reading…

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