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Toshiko Mori's Senegalese cultural hub receives a 2017 AIA Award

Iwan Baan


senegalese hub

Merging architecture with culture, Japanese architect Toshiko Mori constructed his Senegalese hub using local techniques involving compressed earth and bamboo. The facility is located in the remote village of Sinthian and acts as a performance area, gathering space, library and children's play gym, and provides accommodation for visiting artists. The centre was also designed to foster unity between the 12 local tribes who use it.

senegalese hub

To stay true to the area's traditional roots, Mori developed the building to complement existing structures on the site – surrounding the centre, or the Thread as it is known, are clinics, a farming school and a kindergarten.

senegalese hub

While the twisting thatched roof is aesthetically pleasing, it's also functional, providing shelter for enclosed workshop areas, bedrooms and the central gathering space. Its undulations help to collect rainwater, which is stored in large reservoirs and used by local women to grow crops during the region's long, dry season.

'A parametric transformation of the traditional pitched roof is achieved through a process of inversion, inscribing a series of courtyards within the plan of the building and simultaneously creating shaded studio areas around the perimeter of the courtyard,' said the architects.

senegalese hub

The materials used for the structure make practical sense for its location. Compressed earth blocks, formed on site, make up the walls and help to absorb heat. Perforated sections encourage airflow, contributing to a naturally ventilated interior. Underfoot is flooring created from recycled broken tiles, which changes tones to demarcate different functional areas.

senegalese hub

As one of 23 winners of the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) 2017 Honour Awards, the Thread cultural centre had to be more than just an architectural construction of beauty. According to a statement by the AIA's judging panel, 'In addition to providing the community with a sense of ownership and simplifying efforts to maintain it, employing local workers provided training for residents of a very remote area where entrepreneurship is scarce.'

senegalese hub