New York based architect Steven Holl won a LafargeHolcim Awards Acknowledgement prize for his design of the Miracle for Africa Foundation central library in Lilongwe, Malawi. LafargeHolcim Foundation Board member Marilyne Andersen caught up with Steven Holl in Zurich, where she presented an Awards prizewinner certificate – a fitting combination as both are passionate about the use of daylight in architecture.
The two were invited to Zurich by the Velux Foundation as 2016 Laureates of the Global Daylight Award. Marilyne Andersen is one of the world’s leading daylight experts and leads exemplary interdisciplinary daylighting research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne. Her research addresses and analyses daylight effects on the health, wellbeing, performance and experience of building users. Steven Holl is known for bridging the empirical scientific and the intuitive world to express the atmospheric qualities of space and light and the relationships between structure, material and light.
Steven Holl is optimistic that his LafargeHolcim Awards Acknowledgement prize winning library project in Malawi will commence construction in early 2018. It is his first project on the African continent and he is proud that it will not just be energy neutral, but supply energy for adjacent buildings to be constructed. In his speech at the Daylight Award Outreach event, he gave full credit to Matthias Schuler of Transsolar in Germany who established the basics for the striking design that combines solar energy production with natural ventilation and enables natural lighting: “When people ask me what material I enjoy working with the most, I say light!”, explained Steven Holl.See more
Four projects in each region receive an Acknowledgement prize. Wonjoon Han, Sookhee Yuk and Gahee Van from South Korea developed new architectural structures to enhance the viability of shea butter processing in Ghana. The team of TAMassociati from Italy is giving the African continent an artistic voice that will be heard around the world through their building for Maisha Film Labs in Kampala, Uganda. At the campus of the Miracle for Africa Foundation in Lilongwe, Malawi, Steven Holl from the USA proposes a new library to be built by the local workforce. Finally, Andrew Amara from Uganda is planning a new children’s department in the Center for Nodding Disease in Odek, Uganda.Read more »
The new central library for the campus of the Miracle for Africa Foundation in Lilongwe provides spaces for books, archives, reading rooms, classrooms, offices, and an open forum. The architectural aim is to maximize the use of natural light, while powering the building with solar energy. An ascending array of roof elements – each with a gentle curve, like wind moving across a field – gives orientation to all interior spaces. Small glass-encased rooms containing humidity-sensitive materials and activities are situated within a larger, passively cooled open plan. A locally-crafted bamboo screen enclosure acts as a permeable dust filtering facade and allows natural cross ventilation to cool the building both during the day and at night.
The jury commended the sophisticated, undulating design that synthesizes effective shading, natural ventilation, solar energy, and greywater recycling into one seductive and highly resolved form. It was further noted that ambitious architecture is so unusual in the region that – as a distinctive landmark with a noble program – the project could provide an aspirational environment. Despite the exceptional design, a clear depiction of the siting of the building – as, for example, a site plan – was unfortunately lacking, making it impossible to assess the library’s relation to its context. Nonetheless, the jury applauded the project’s overall design posture, taking sustainability beyond what it conventionally appears to be.
Sustainably designed and programmed for human comfort
The building’s program is sensitively arranged with glass box rooms controlling smaller environments within a larger open plan, passively conserving energy and maintaining thermal comfort in the space. A permeable dust filtering façade for the building allows natural cross ventilation through the building during the day and an exposed thermal mass to naturally cool off at night. During the dominant rainy season peak temperatures are above 35°C while nights are below 22°C. Naturally ventilated office boxes made of glass and open reading rooms located near the periphery and under mezzanine clerestories are lit by the highest quality daylight. Humidity controlled archive boxes, also made of glass are strategically located at the center under the mezzanine for maximum UV and thermal protection.
High performance, low impact
There are two main construction materials used for the library: local wood & bamboo are used to create a permeable façade, while ductal or UHCP concrete is used for the roof / columnar structure. The UHCP results in a very low carbon footprint while providing tremendous material savings in iron and aggregates, up to 70%. Exposed material finishes further reduce maintenance costs. The lean slab is carefully designed to be thin enough to reduce material consumption and waste, while sufficiently thick enough (6cm) to provide a regulating thermal mass, providing large spans. Waterless toilets and greywater management strategies in combination with rain water harvesting and storage ensure no drop of water goes to waste, but is instead utilized for landscape irrigation and cleaning.
Building as an ecological engine for the campus and Malawi
The characteristically curved roof is covered with flexible solar PV sheets, a pioneering solution to Malawi’s crippling energy crisis. The roof produces 627 MWh/a of electricity, 340% more than its calculated consumption of 142 MWh/a. All excess energy is distributed to the rest of the campus. Thermal capillary mats behind the PV, harvest solar energy for free water-based night heating, while also boosting the efficiency of the PV panels. The ratio of the façade’s perforation was calculated to utilize the dominant East South East winds and maximize cross ventilation throughout all reading and office spaces. Roof-formed mezzanine clerestories allow diffused daylight from the South, ensuring high quality reading and office spaces with a spatial daylight autonomy between 70-99%.See more
The design by Steven Holl of Steven Holl Architects, USA starts by maximising the natural light to the interior and …
Sweep of gently curving roof elements and screen enclosures for a library in Lilongwe, Malawi transcending sustainable …
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