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Francis Kéré on his first project – building a schook for his hometown in Burkina Faso – excerpted from our new issue mono.kultur #46.

The Gando School in your hometown is the project that brought you initial acclaim and attention worldwide. This was your student project that you began working on before you graduated. Was that always your plan?

When I began studying architecture, I knew I wanted to improve construction techniques and how people build in Burkina Faso; that was always very strong in my mind. I started attending extra workshops to get the skills and knowledge I needed. I was focused on just trying to build. While my friends were off to visiting places such as the Palace of Versailles in France, I would be thinking, ‘What for? Could you build that in Africa?’ Most students were designing ‘normal’ European projects. When I started to talk about my idea to build a school in Africa, some were surprised. Every day I would joke that I was just studying so I could ‘improve’ traditional African huts. Some of my peers really thought that’s what I was doing and would laugh because in their eyes, it was not architecture. But there were some who were really interested in what I was doing and said, ‘Finally, something useful.’

I started to think more about designing. Two of my teachers encouraged me to consider design as something to take seriously, something that could really add to the discussion of architecture. I made my first models, and then one of my teachers put a coin inside one to represent a first donation of support. It gave me the idea to make reproductions of this model and put them everywhere as donation boxes. I would nudge fellow students to smoke less or drink less coffee, and donate the change they saved. The process started in quite an amusing way, but that approach really became the basis for the project. From there I started going to shops and asking if I could leave a box to collect money. I realise I’m not talking much about architecture here, but this is such an important part of it all.

Image: Gando Primary School, Burkina Faso
Photography by Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk, Courtesy of Kéré Architecture


Dear Friends,

in our most colourful issue yet, we step into the life and work of architect Francis Kéré, known in equal measure for his lighthearted and innovative architecture, his remarkable background, and his infectious sense of optimism.

And his path is an extraordinary one: beginning in Gando, a small village in Burkina Faso, and moving all the way to West Berlin in the 1980s, where Kéré would end up studying architecture. His graduation project was the school Gando never had – built in 2001 with the help of the people it was designed for, the village community. It was also the starting point for his own practice that celebrates architecture as a fundamentally social act.

Since then, Kéré has completed numerous projects both in Africa and beyond, including schools, medical centres, cultural institutions, and temporary installations, such as the renowned annual Serpentine Pavilion in 2017. Frequently relying on local materials and infrastructure, his work is marked by a profound simplicity and refreshing lightness, meeting technical problems with surprising and seemingly effortless solutions. It reflects his attitude that architecture should, in its most primary function, seek to improve the lives of the people who inhabit it.

With mono.kultur, Francis Kéré talked about his long trajectory from a remote village in Africa to Berlin, his steadfast belief in optimism, and what makes a tree a perfect piece of architecture.

Designwise, we followed Kéré’s principle to work with what is at hand, sourcing papers from dead stock at our printers’, essentially using an assortment of leftovers. And colour, of course, with the issue based on the national colours of Burkina Faso, paying tribute to the idea of culture as a shared ground to build upon.

In short, mono.kultur #46 is the perfect remedy against dreary autumn days. Available as ever through our online store mono.konsum, or at the trusted book dealer of your choice very soon indeed.

Enjoy and all our best,


mono.kultur #46
“Architecture is a collective endeavour.”

Autumn 2018 / English / 15 x 20 cm / 48 Pages
Printed on Six Different Stocks of Paper

Interview by Fiona Shipwright
Works by Kéré Architecture
Design by Julie Gayard/jutojo



With mono.kultur #46, we turn to a singular career in architecture. Finally out next week.


Working with what is at hand: for our new issue mono.kultur #46, we selected various papers from ‘dead stock’ at our printers, essentially recycling leftovers from other commissions.


Today is a good day: today is the day our new issue mono.kultur #46 is going to print.


Dutch design magazine MacGuffin has been gathering a swiftly growing following since its first issue came out three years ago, and deservedly so. Admittedly, at first we didn’t quite understand the buzz – while we are all for mono-themed magazines, MacGuffin’s focus on a mundane daily use object felt a little too specific for our tastes: we weren’t sure if we really wanted to read 200+ pages about windows, ropes or sinks. Surprisingly, though, it turns out we do – at least when they are as intelligent and entertaining as proposed by MacGuffin.

Take, for instance, the current issue, dedicated to ‘The Ball’: Who would have thought that the Mayans invented the first bouncy rubber ball, hundreds of years before a certain Mr Goodyear patented the rubber ball as we know it? Or that ball boys for tennis have to undergo a year-long training before they qualify to fetch balls at grand slam tournaments? Or that the curious inventor of the smiley goes under the apt name of Harvey Ball? MacGuffin is full of these odd little stories. Trivial knowledge, sure, but surprisingly interesting and highly entertaining in its obsessive curiosity about the mundane objects that shape our daily lives without us giving them a second thought. And it does so with ridiculous precision and attention to detail, in content as well as its brilliant design by Sandra Kassenar which manages the feat of looking a little dusty yet modern, rigorous yet quirky, conceptual yet slightly off, all at the same time.

Note the +1 among MacGuffin’s following.


Re-screenprinted: three messages for you by wondrous and wonderful Miranda July, and finally available again at mono.konsum.


In the making indeed: mono.kultur #46.

mono.punkt #43: FRIENDS WITH BOOKS 2018 / BERLIN

It is that time of the year again, autumn that is, when Friends with Books come strolling around the corner, with the latest coolest prettiest books and magazines tucked casually under their arm. Yes indeed, opening tonight at glorious Hamburger Bahnhof: Friends with Books Art Book Fair Berlin for a weekend of printed matter fixation. We will be there, and so should you.

Friends with Books: Art Book Fair Berlin 2018
19 October 2018: 18–20h
20 & 21 October 2018: 11–19h

Hamburger Bahnhof
Invalidenstraße 50-51
10557 Berlin

mono.punkt #42: MULTIPLE ART DAYS / PARIS