Cultural Center

THREAD: Artists’ Residency and Cultural Center / Toshiko Mori Architect

  • Architect:Toshiko Mori Architect
  • Location:Sinthian, Senegal
  • Date:2015
  • Area:11285 sq ft
  • Client:Josef and Anni Albers Foundation

Thread: Artists’ Residency and Cultural Center

Thread: Artists’ Residency and Cultural Center – Text from Toshiko Mori Architect and Albers Foundation.

The Albers Foundation in Senegal

Thread is the culmination of a long-standing relationship between Senegal and the Albers Foundation. Nicholas Fox Weber (the Foundation’s Director) founded the non-profit organisation American Friends of Le Korsa in 2005, focusing particularly on medical care, scholarships and education in Senegal. Commenting on the ethos of Thread, Weber says, “When Josef and Anni Albers created the Foundation that bears their names, they stated its purpose to be “the revelation and evocation of vision through art”. They regarded the act of creation and the pleasures of seeing as the greatest means to combat hardship and provide balance and hope. Anni Albers often spoke about “starting at zero” as essential in life and Josef often extolled the wonders of experimentation.” Thread has been built in accord with these values.

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

The Architects – Toshiko Mori

Acclaimed New York-based architect Toshiko Mori has worked on this project pro-bono, designing a building that has already won an AIA New York Chapter award and was selected for the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. The building is constructed using local materials and local builders have shared their sophisticated knowledge of working with bamboo, brick, and thatch. These traditional techniques are combined with design innovations by Mori. The customary pitched roof is reconfigured and will be capable of collecting approximately 30% of the villagers’ domestic water usage in fresh rainfall.

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

Project Description

Situated in the remote community of Sinthian, Senegal, near the fragile border of Mali, this project offers multiple programs for the community, including gathering space, performance center, and residency for visiting artists. A collaboration with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and American Friends of Le Korsa, the cultural facility complements the existing clinics, kindergarten, and farming school near the site. It is also meant to ensure stability and provide a common ground within a community consisting of 12 different tribes. The shared music, art, and performance programs are a testament to the resiliency of the region.

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

In the design, a parametric transformation of the traditional pitched roof is achieved through a process of reshaping, inscribing a series of courtyards within the plan of the building and simultaneously creating shaded studio areas around the perimeter of the courtyard. The reshaping 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 fulfills substantial domestic and agricultural water needs for the community.

© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan

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 the use of local materials, project management was undertaken by local villagers. The project offers an iconic shape in a landscape that is a vast, flat bush land.


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