Run by Mariam Kamara, Atelier Masōmī is an African architecture studio which develops innovative solutions in architecture and design, while exploring new adaptations to local techniques. Below you can find two projects form the Atelier: Hikma and the Regional Market.
With the support of local leaders, women and youth, the Hikma project re-introduces the values of the old House of Wisdom, a library and research center housing the world’s largest collection of books for scholars to engage both theological and scientific matters embedded in Islam itself. The Atelier renovated a derelict mosque to create a library that shares its site with a new mosque for the village of Dandaji. Dandaji is a village in arid western Niger with a very young population of 3000 people, low literacy rates, and high economic vulnerability. The local middle school serves children from 5 surrounding villages with plans for a high school underway. The new library will be impactful by providing books, a computer lab and quiet study spaces to improve reading and vocabulary skills for the community and to, increase graduation rates. By involving women groups in the project, additional spaces for literacy, accounting courses, and workshops were added. As a mosque, women never used the current building, preferring to pray at home. The library and its proximity to the new mosque will engage them and the youth positively with these religious spaces as productive members of the community.
Another important project is The Regional Market: in rural Niger, markets run on a weekly basis, allowing sellers to move from village to village all week long to offer their products. With a rapidly increasing population, the village Dandaji felt a need for a more permanent market for its own inhabitants to both procure and sell goods in a more consistant way. The current weekly market is organized around an ancestral tree that has become the public space to be during Market Day for market-goers and sellers. The new project stays on the same site and amplifies an experience the village inhabitants have come to count on. The Atelier sought to create an infrastructure that would be very visually appealing, that the villagers would be proud of, and that would consequently attract more commerce to the area. Ultimately, a main goal of the project is to create a space that projects a sense of confidence and aspirations for the future in the users themselves by way of a dramatic upgrade from the market’s initial wood and straw structures. The design of the project is kept very simple, using a colorful metal canopy produced by a succession of individual shading structures. It provides solar and thermal protection to the vending spaces underneath. The result is a whimsical world that complements the colorful goods on display, while protecting patrons from the scorching sun. The market is laid out to progressively step down to the old tree, the surroundings of which are formalized to become a real public space with seating and rest spaces for all to gather around.
Visit Atelier Masōmī’s page to discover more projects!
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Photo Credits – James Wang and Maurice Ascani