Schulbausteine für Gando e.V. (Building Blocks for Gando) was set up by the award winning architect Diébédo Francis Kéré in 1998. Kéré was born in the village of Gando, which lies in Burkina Faso, West Africa, and was the first member of his community to attend school. After studying in Berlin, he felt it was his duty to contribute to his family and to the community which had supported him. To this end, he founded the non-profit organization Building Blocks for Gando in Berlin and went on to adopt an innovative approach of development through architecture.
In 2001, Building Blocks raised the money for the community of Gando to build a primary school. Kéré provided the inspiration for the project. On drawing a preliminary plan in the sand he found the community fully engaged in the project, many of them coming up with their own suggestions of how to improve it. As Kéré says, “Only those who are involved in the development process can appreciate the results achieved, develop them further and protect them”.
Gando is a village of 3000 inhabitants situated in the remote East of Burkina Faso, the 7th poorest country in the world. The village has no source of electricity besides the solar powered lamps, no access to clean water apart from wells, and the literacy rate is well below the national average of 25%. Life expectancy in Burkina Faso is 52. Most people are subsistence farmers, with their livelihoods dependent on the harsh climate – there is virtually no rain between October and June, and daytime temperatures can reach 45°C in the shade.
The primary school was built out of mud bricks, something the community was initially somewhat skeptical about. They were concerned that a mud brick construction wouldn’t survive the rain season. But Kéré’s innovative design provided the solution. A wide, raised corrugated iron protects the walls from the rain, and allows air to circulate underneath in order to keep the building cool. The community was delighted to find the school still standing after ten years, and the building is much cooler and more pleasant to work in than the conventional concrete school buildings. Kéré’s design has become renowned throughout Burkina Faso, and won the Aga Khan award for architecture in 2004.
Burkina Faso is in the Sahel, the zone immediately south of the Sahara. Thus the climate in Gando is very hot and dry, with daytime temperatures easily reaching 45 degrees in the shade, and virtually no rain between October and June. The Harmattan winds bring dust clouds and occasional sand storms from the Sahara, and due to global warming, the desert is expanding southwards.
For most people the main source of fuel is wood, and with the expanding population, deforestation has become a big problem.
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