From his office in Berlin, architect Diébédo Francis Kéré combines humanitarian projects in his native country of Burkina Faso with work in Europe. In Africa Kéré Architecture builds schools, centres of education, libraries, health centres, and does it all with the local population.

That calls for a totally different approach to building, organising and communicating. In Burkina Faso Kéré presents his ideas by drawing in the sand with a stick. Local builders then know what’s to be done, using local materials such as wood, clay and stone.

This hands-on mentality can also be seen at his Berlin office, where models of paper and cardboard lie scattered around the place instead of 3D renderings on flashy flatscreens. Architecture is visualized here with simple means in a tangible way that communicates his ideas in a surprisingly clear manner.

Implementing a vision in humanitarian projects in Africa while running a business is a balancing act. That is what Richard van der Laken, creative director of WDCD, learned recently when he met Kéré in Berlin. And it is a point that they both understand very well. Projects born of idealism can completely absorb you, but are impossible to realize without the backup of a well-oiled business machine. Kéré succeeds wonderfully well in that regard.

Kéré is a man on a mission. That’s why he’s coming to WDCD, where he will present his remarkable buildings and explain what they mean for the community in Burkina Faso. He’s in Amsterdam on 21 and 22 May for What Design Can Do, and his presentation will not leave you unmoved.

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