Project Entry 2017 for Middle East Africa

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    An endangered legacy: the locally funded project reconciles aspirations with local imperatives.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    Stemming from conversations and workshops with the village leaders, middle school students and women’s groups, Dandaji’s new library provides learning spaces inside what was its Friday mosque, in direct dialog with a new mosque erected on the adjacent lot. The new setup encourages daily use and upkeep, and brings the community together. The site becomes a new culture and education hub for all, and local artisans are invited to contribute to the project with an art wall at the center of the site.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    The two buildings and the site between them form a complex where the religious and the secular co-exist. While the old mosque is transformed from within using a modular shelving and spatial system, the new construction makes a strong statement through its scale and flexible spatial organization. The grounds are developed into a promenade to and fro, enhanced by generous landscaping that will thrive thanks to an underground irrigation system.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    Typological contemporization: the new mosque looks to ancestral spatial logic and revives tradition.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    Injecting the secular on sacred grounds: the new interior structure makes room for a new use.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    Identifying resources: the new design utilizes locally found and produced building materials.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    Women attend agriculture and product transformation workshops, literacy, and accounting classes.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    The new library is a hub to seek knowledge and converse.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    The exchange: the new design honors the sacred forms with new materials and building technique.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    Peaceful dialog: on major life events, the new mosque turns into a venue for celebration.

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    Religious and secular complex, Dandaji, Niger

    Project authors (l-r): Mariam Kamara, atelier masomi, Providence, RI, USA and Niamey, Niger; and Yasaman Esmaili, studio chahar, Seattle, USA.

Last updated: March 21, 2017 Dandaji, Niger

Knowledge as a means to social inclusion and economic advancement

Dandaji is a Hausa village in arid western Niger with a very young population of 3000, low literacy rates, and high economic vulnerability. The local middle school serves children from five 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’s 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 positively engage them and the youth with these religious spaces as productive members of the community.

A contemporary use of traditional forms, methods and new material

To renovate the old building to its previous glory, the original masons are invited to join the project’s team. In the process, they learn about adobe-enhancing additives and erosion protection techniques. Instead of the region’s traditional but scarce wood, the interior renovation uses metal for study spaces, partitions, stairs and a mezzanine level, as a contemporary touch to a traditional space. The new building in turn re-interprets traditional Hausa mosque organization with contemporary structural support and detailing. Its two blocks and outdoor prayer space are suited to daily prayers, Friday assemblies, or large Eid celebrations. The dialog between the formal structures of the old and the new leads to further collaboration between the traditional masons and the construction crew.

Thermal comfort, environmental integration and low energy consumption

The project introduces Compressed Earth Bricks (CEB) made with laterite soil found on site; a new material in the area with the advantage of being lower maintenance than adobe, with similar thermal benefits. Most of the project materials are sourced from within a 5km radius from the site, while the use of concrete is limited to structural elements such as columns and lintels. The thermal mass of the CEBs and natural ventilation keep indoor temperatures comfortable and remove the need for mechanical cooling. The effect is amplified with extensive planting throughout the site, using a drip irrigation system to help the vegetation thrive. The system dramatically lowers water consumption and will use an underground water reservoir that captures the rainy season downpours.