How Architect Francis Kéré Elevated Africa at the Unkwon Unkwons
Share This Article
From history to history, the inventive design thinker and compassionate architect, Architect Francis Kéré, who is the first African to win Pritzker Prize, the highest honor of award in architecture, and Ersilia Vaudo, astrophysicist and Chief Diversity Officer at the European Space Agency, curated the Triennale’s 23rd International Exhibition late last year, the Unknown Unknowns. An Introduction to Mysteries begins its journey in December 2022, according to Designboom website. From the evolution of the city to the oceans, and from genetics to astrophysics, scientists, artists, and designers come together to show the world what we still don’t know we don’t know. The first time, the presence of Africa is stronger than ever as amongst the international participations present, the continent is represented by six states: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
Architect Francis Kéré, who made history as the first African to win the architecture renowned prize, created four installations for the 23rd International Exhibition of Triennale that lead the visitor’s path in, out, and around the famous Milanese building. His participation and committed creativity addressed the lack of recognition towards the African continent, the Burkina Faso born Berlin based architect while pronouncing the continent of Africa in the global stage through his inventive creations, shows the world traditional culture and beauty, as well as emerging issues and worries.
According to Architect Francis Kéré, ‘A huge continent with so many great countries is always excluded, and it is a great opportunity for Burkina Faso, Ruanda, Kenya, Ghana, Lesotho, and the Republic of the Congo, it’s a great opportunity for these little-known countries to tell something about themselves. Although it is the closest neighboring continent to Europe, Africa is not talked about in the news much and not much is being broadcasted.’
Among all the architect’s installations, ‘The Future’s Present’, the 12m tower right across the entrance of Triennale is something one cannot miss. The creation invented a space for people to escape the busy rhythms of the city and escape into a tower that overlooks the surrounding landscape; a quiet place in the hectic rhythms of Milan. The relationship between people and nature fortifies and a space of contemplation and imagination arises.
Architect Kéré added that, ‘The aim of each of the four installations is to create spaces for people to find comfort, no matter their financial situations. The tower encourages the people of Milan to find the time for a quiet place, and to sit and reflect on what they just witnessed through the exhibits. Through ‘The Future’s Present’, we get to see the surrounding environment and nature, and forget the burden of today’s problems like climate change, resource limitation, conflict, and population growth. Basically, what I wanted to do with this structure, with my team, was to create a relationship between people and the sky, as well as a space for the imagination.’
‘Yesterday’s Tomorrow’ was right in the center of the international exhibitions. As a tribute to the exclusive vernacular architecture and culture of the people of Burkina Faso, the installation consists of two walls that curve into themselves. Once in and around, a seating area reveals itself, offering another small escape to the visitors.
In togetherness, the traditional motifs and patterns continue in the ‘Drawn Together’ room, which marks the African country’s first participation in the exhibition. Women artisans were seen embellishing the mural wall painting with simple brushes and paint, made out of natural materials. More than just decorations, the depicted symbols represent the importance of music, family, and the role of animals into the world. Human or not, equality takes form as the sharing of resources evolves in harmony.
Architect Francis Kéré further explained that, ‘For a country like Burkina Faso to be in Milan and talk about its greatness is truly fundamental, as it is a great chance to show something different than what we, in the West, know about. This goal of drawing together, which you will see the artisans at the Burkina Faso pavilion, they will be standing there trying to use natural products to create a mural painting, which is telling the story and which is totally about participation. Here the women are inviting the public to join and to really try to experience a tradition that is vital in Burkina Faso.’
As part of the installations, ‘Under a Coffee Tree’ decorated Triennale’s communal café area was done in collaboration with the Lavazza Group, the tree and seating benches bring people closer together, just like the ritual of coffee for countries around the world.
‘To discover the Unknown Unknowns is to be ready to tackle what is actually unknown, and this goes all the way to the Lavazza installation. Every little single cup of coffee is the result of a bean from the coffee tree. What we want is for people to sit and reflect on what they have seen during the exhibition, and then begin a dialogue of contemplation with their seating neighbor,’ says Architect Kéré.
OTHER INTERNATIONAL PAVILIONS
Apart from installations from African countries, other outstanding pavilions at the exclusive exhibition were from countries like Austria, where artist Sonja Bäumel magnifies an amoeba in the form of a sculpture that stretches out across the room. With a projection in the background, the installation explores the vital connections between body and microbes, inviting people to explore these fragmentations and movements. And many more.
Exhibition Name: Unknown Unknowns. An Introduction to Mysteries
Curators: Francis Kéré; Ersilia Vaudo
Occasion: Triennale 23rd International Exhibition
Location: Palazzo dell’Arte, Milan, Italy
Duration: July 15, 2022 – January 8, 2023
Edited by MJ Buildace Magazine