Berlin-based practice, Kéré Architecture has always strived to create architecture that is embedded in its context, sustainable and socially committed. Led by Francis Kéré, the firm has taken up numerous projects in regions often ignored by contemporary architecture. The firm’s new project, Startup Lion Campus, located in Turkana, Kenya is a stark reminder of the power of community-driven architecture.
The campus can be described in two words as ‘remarkably local’, employing many sustainable strategies to create the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) campus, on the banks of Lake Turkana. Built in collaboration with the local community, the development seeks to provide opportunity and train the local youth, at the same time allow startups to thrive locally, while also providing access to international job market, to curb unemployment in the country.
Built using local materials, the cluster of buildings form a sheltered courtyard, celebrating the unique morphology and the landscape it is set in. The four-block campus form is inspired by the towering mounds of termites, found locally in the region. Each block features tall chimneys and helps cool down the building through stack effect.
The chimneys act as ventilation towers, which help draw the warm air upwards, while fresh air is introduced through specially-designed low-level openings, creating comfortable temperature inside. Although this technique is not new, its implementation in this campus is simply stunning and helps create a landmark in the surroundings.
“In choosing which materials and construction techniques to use, ecological sustainability, cost and availability factors were weighed to arrive at the best compromise,” said Francis Kéré.
The architecture here becomes a mechanism for creating sustainable solutions for the campus and promoting wellbeing among students. The passive design strategies help cool the buildings in extreme heat and prevents dust from damaging the IT equipment.
The building planning promotes chance encounters and encourages conversation for the exchange of ideas. The blocks also feature outdoor terraces, which are shaded through creeping vegetation, providing the students additional space for interaction and socialisation, as well as to view the landscape from different perspectives. Built using local quarry stone with a plaster finished, the buildings are finished in brown earthy tone, helping them integrate within the landscape.
The simplicity of architecture by Francis Kéré, is a reminder of how architecture, when done right, is ecologically sustainable, using local materials and promoting local craftsmanship. The Startup Lion Campus is local in its spirit, built with community participation, and promotes regional architecture.
Project Name: Startup Lions Campus
Location: Turkana County, Kenya
Type of project: Education
Size: 1 416 sqm
Design: May 2019 – December 2019
Construction: December 2020 – April 2021
Architect: Kéré Architecture, Diébédo Francis Kéré, Berlin, Germany
Design team: Kinan Deeb, Andrea Maretto Kéré Architecture, Berlin, Germany
Contributors: Juan Carlos Zapata, Leonne Vögelin, Charles André, Malak Nasreldin Kéré Architecture, Berlin, Germany
Project Management: Kinan Deeb Kéré Architecture, Berlin, Germany
Engineering: BuildX Studio, Kyuna Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
Construction: BuildX Studio, Kyuna Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
Client: Learning Lions gUG (haftungsbeschränkt), Geltendorf, Germany
Image: Kinan Deeb
Francis Kéré is an internationally renowned Burkinabè architect, recognised for his pioneering approach to design and sustainable modes of construction. His vocation to become an architect comes from a personal commitment to serve the community he grew up in, and a belief in the transformative potential of beauty.
In 2004, his very first building – the Gando Primary School, which he designed, raised funds for and realised in collaboration with the residents of his hometown while still a student at the Technical University of Berlin – was awarded the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, garnering him critical acclaim from the outset of his career. In 2005 he founded his architectural practice, Kéré Architecture GmbH, as well as the Kéré Foundation e.V., a non-profit organisation that pursues projects in Gando.
Since then, Kéré has gone on to become one of the world’s most distinguished contemporary architects, with a vision that is at once utopian and pragmatic. Inspired by the particularities of each project’s locality and its social tapestry, he and his team work on projects across four continents. These include his designs for the Burkina Faso National Assembly, the Lycée Schorge Secondary School, the Léo Surgical Clinic and Health Centre, the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion and Xylem, the recently opened pavilion for the Tippet Rise Art Centre.
Underpinning his architectural work are his past and present teaching engagements at TU München, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio and Yale University, as well as his participation in solo and group exhibitions including at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, the Museo ICO in Madrid, the Architekturmuseum in Munich and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.