Located in the remote community of Sinthian, south-eastern Senegal, near the fragile border of Mali, the new cultural center was conceived and funded by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and designed pro-bono by architect Toshiko Mori, who mixed design innovation and traditional techniques.

The space offers multiple programs for the community, including gathering space, performance center, and residency for visiting artists. The cultural facility is intended to complement the existing clinics, kindergarten, and farming school on site. It is also meant to ensure stability and provide a common ground within a community consisting of twelve different tribes. The shared music, art, and performance programs are a testament to the resiliency of the region.

Toshiko Mori says about the project: “In the design, 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. The inversion of the roof also creates an effective strategy for the collection and storage of rainwater in cisterns. With a total footprint of 11,285 square feet, the project is capable of fulfilling substantial domestic and agricultural water needs for the community. Relying exclusively on local materials and construction techniques, the building’s traditional structure is formed primarily of large bamboo members and compressed earth blocks. Climatic considerations figure prominently into the building’s form and specify the orientation of the studios and covered gallery areas. The building also offers ample shading of outdoor areas and considers wind orientation for ventilation. Climatic comfort is reinforced through multiple overhangs and spaced-brick walls that absorb heat and allow for airflow through the building interior. In addition to local material, project management will be undertaken by local villagers. The project offers an iconic shape in a landscape that is a vast, flat bush land.”

Opened in March 2015, the building has already won an AIA New York Chapter award and was selected for the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.


All Rights Reserved to Toshiko Mori

Phots by Iwan Baan

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