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.