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Francis Kéré Announced as the recipient of 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture

United States Architecture News - Apr 3, 2021 - 09:14   1488 views

Francis Kéré Announced as the recipient of 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture

On March 26th, 2021, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and the University of Virginia announced that the 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture will be presented to renowned and distinguish contemporary architect Francis Kéré, celebrated for his pioneering communal approach to design and commitment to the incorporation of sustainable materials as well as modes of construction.

Four awards are bestowed as a part of the recognition – the Thomas Jefferson Medals in Architecture, Law, Citizen Leadership, and Global Innovation. Due to the COVID – 19 pandemic, the architecture medal will be awarded during a virtual event while the other medals shall be presented on a future date when in-person events shall be declared safe. In honor of the recognition, the UVA School of Architecture will host a virtual public talk by Kéré on Monday, April 12 at 5 p.m. (EDT), via Zoom.

“I am delighted that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal will be awarded to Francis Kéré for his achievements in architecture during this unprecedented year, and I look forward to honoring Medal recipients in Law, Citizen Leadership, and Global Innovation in the near future,” said UVA President Jim Ryan in a statement. “Although circumstances preclude a traditional in-person celebration, they do not diminish our admiration for Kéré’s innovative work and invaluable contributions not only to the field of architecture but to our society as a whole.”

In response to the announcement & recognition, Kéré told WAC, “I am deeply honored to be the 2021 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture, an award that recognizes the value of sustainable and imaginative architecture to society. It bolsters my confidence that there is space for an Afro-futurist architecture that is recognized and appreciated on its own terms. I strive for an architecture that can do good, and I am proud to be listed amongst the past winners, architects from present and past that I greatly admire.”


Francis Kéré-designed Xylem at Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana, 2019. Image courtesy of Tippet Rise/Iwan Baan. 

Photo by Iwan Baan.


Francis Kéré-designed Xylem at Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana, 2019. Image courtesy of Tippet
Rise/Iwan Baan. Photo by Iwan Baan.

Kéré received his architectural education from the Technische Universität in Berlin (2004) and has been trained in the craft of carpentry in Burkina Faso as well as Germany. This exposure has bolstered his innovative construction techniques, design aesthetic and allowed Kéré to develop a keen sense for craftsmanship, crucial in the creation of a building. This combination has also enabled him to develop expertise in tackling complexities along with elegance that can be applied across various scales and contexts. His deep understanding of the power of education has driven him to train construction workers in Burkina Faso as well as teach the upcoming generation of architects during his past and current teaching endeavors at prominent universities like the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, the TU München and Yale University.


Francis Kéré-designed Benin National Assembly. Image courtesy of Kéré Architecture

One of his recent projects, the Benin National Assembly in Porto-Novo, is designed to embody the identity of the people it serves and is inclusive of an adjacent park that can serve the city residents as a central recreation space, creating a sense of openness and transparency, while expressing the democratic values of the people of Benin.

Kéré’s boundary-pushing architectural practice has allured attention from various exhibition makers and curators, allowing him to oscillate between the disciplines of architecture and art. Some of his prominent commissions include the Serpentine Pavilion (2017), a visitor’s pavilion for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (2018), showcases at the Venice Biennale of Architecture (2016 & 2018), and many more notable exhibitions internationally. Additionally, his work has been selected for a number of group exhibitions such as AFRICA: Architecture, Culture, and Identity, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (2015), Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010) and Sensing Spaces, at the Royal Academy, London (2014).

As the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson foundation medal in Architecture, Kéré joins a distinguished list of past winners that include esteemed architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Toyo Ito, Sir David Adjaye OBE, and many more.

Top Image: Francis Kéré ( 2019).

Photograph by Erik Petersen. Courtesy Kéré Architecture.

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