In Ethiopia, villagers gather under the shade of the Warka tree to discuss community matters, and in South Africa, the Zulu community refer to their formal village conferences as “indaba”. This strong sense of community is prevalent in many African cultures and rural Burkina Faso, where well-regarded architect Francis Kéré grew up, is no exception. In fact, this idea of community was the inspiration behind his recent installation at this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Kéré’s rural village of Gando is situated within the semi-arid Sahel belt of Northern Burkina Faso. Here, limited resources and a desert-like climate challenge locals on a daily basis. Villagers rely on one another and the resilience of their community to overcome these conditions; and from an architectural standpoint, this requires a reserved place for gathering.
In Place for Gathering, Kéré addresses community cohesion on two premises: maximising local resources and facilitating the exchange of ideas and knowledge. This materialised as a seating terrain made from locally sourced wood in the foyer of the Chicago Cultural Centre. The space was designed to encourage visitors to congregate in an informal environment, and engage in conversation.